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Why Consider Electives-Based Physical Education?

This is an excerpt from Lesson Planning for High School Physical Education With Web Resource by Lynn Couturier MacDonald,Robert Doan & Stevie Chepko.

As physical educators, we strive to instill within our students a sense of intrinsic motivation that will drive them to participate in physical education and activity because they find it interesting and enjoyable, and to embrace the curriculum because it offers opportunity for learning (Vallerand et al., 1992). It’s also important that they possess a degree of self-regulation based on their internalized value of physical education participation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). That is, they participate because they understand the importance of physical literacy for their overall health and lifetime wellness (Ntoumanis, 2005).


What does this all mean for the practitioner? Stated simply, it means that we have to plan lessons and modules that students will enjoy, find challenging, and see as relevant to their overall health, wellness, and lifestyle. In 2014, high school physical educator Tracy Krause - who contributed the three outdoor pursuits modules in chapter 5 - described his school’s student survey as a critical tool for developing a departmental vision and overall curriculum plan that aligned with the values and interests of both the students and the community (Krause, 2014). Further, Krause explains that these data exposed the importance of intentional and focused decision making. Honest teacher reflection, strategic re-thinking, intentional planning, and mindful assessment are all requirements for physical educators striving toward highly effective curriculum development and implementation. Fortunately, tools such as Google Forms make it easier than ever to use student surveys as a method for gathering critical information to help teachers make informed curriculum decisions.


Start With a Survey

To move forward with an intentional focus on student participation and motivation, programs can start with a student survey based on Standard 5 (SHAPE America, 2014, p. 60). Even when there are potential barriers to immediate change (e.g., funding, facilities, equipment, administrative support), starting the process with a short survey is an act that will begin to build an important bridge between you and your students.


Planning survey questions based on the Grade-Level Outcomes under Standard 5 helps ensure that you’re using backward-design principles and are indeed starting with your learning goals in mind. Table 4.1 provides a series of sample survey questions that you can use as a starting point for your own customized student survey.



Examine Your Resources

Once you have a baseline understanding of what students want and need during their physical education experience, take an honest and creative look at the resources that are available to you.


Teachers are a program’s greatest resource. Often, the physical activity options that physical education teachers value match the resources available within the community, but if that’s not the case, teacher interest and passion can overcome many obstacles to new offerings. Although curriculum design and implementation should be a collaborative effort among teachers, each member of a department can take ownership of an activity category that interests him or her most. It’s also likely that there will be an essential category (or categories) that no one is particularly passionate about. However, the fire and energy created in the process of planning a favorite module or category can carry over into the planning of important topics that may not be particularly favored.


Once your teaching team is excited about content possibilities, take a look at the equipment and facilities available. If fitness swimming rises to the top of the survey results and is a passion for one of the teachers, then take time to examine how the department can gain access to a pool. Community partnerships and grant programs may help make this option a real possibility. However, it’s also important to spend time and effort on activity options that are realistic and sustainable. As you begin working toward an electives-based design, it’s okay to provide relevant options that fit within program limitations while working to secure the resources for future activity options. You certainly will want to work closely with your school’s administrators to secure their buy-in for community partnerships, grant applications, or changes in program direction.


The final resource to be considered is time, and this resource is affected both by school scheduling policy and by the number of teachers available in each period. Lay out a blank block plan before determining the type of design you will implement. It’s possible that, because of scheduling parameters, you might choose one design for grades 9 and 10 and another design for grades 11 and 12. Scheduling can be frustrating. It’s important to stay positive and be creative during this phase of the planning process.

Learn more about Lesson Planning for High School Physical Education With Web Resource.