Study finds gap between aims of Canadian physical education curriculum and expectations
A study of physical education curriculum across Canada has found that while the curriculum's stated aims are focused on healthy active living through physical activity, the actual learning outcome statements focus primarily on movement skills, games and sport techniques.
The research, published in the international academic journal European Physical Education Review, was led by Dr. Michelle Kilborn, assistant professor with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreationc (HKR) at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Jenna Lorusso, Western University and Dr. Nancy Francis, Brock University.
Beginning in January 2013, the study involved an in-depth analysis of Grade 1-9 physical education curriculum documents from all provinces and territories and sought to gain a deeper understanding of physical education across the country.
“Our examination found a conflict between the curricular vision for physical education and learning expectations for students,” explained Dr. Kilborn. “Physical education vision statements are trying to point us toward more holistic ways of teaching children how to live healthy, active lifestyles, but the specific learning outcomes still largely focus on evaluating a student’s physical skills, such as running, jumping and throwing.”
The researchers conducted the study, An Analysis of Canadian Physical Education Curricula, in order to help contribute a Canadian voice to the international discussion on physical education. They hope the findings become a catalyst for discussion and lead to a shift from performance-driven, competition-oriented delivery of physical education in Canada to a more participation-driven, lifestyle-oriented curriculum.
Dr. Kilborn, who is a curriculum studies scholar, wants to remind people about the value of physical and health education in schools.
“We know that healthy, active living goes beyond learning sport skills,” she said. “We are encouraging provinces and territories to consider what has, is, and should be influencing decisions about curriculum development and reconsider what it means to teach children to be healthy active citizens.”
Dr. Kilborn and her colleagues in HKR are reinforcing the message about healthy active living. They will also release a study at the end of this month highlighting programs that promote healthy, active living for school-aged children and youth. Their studied focused on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador.