The Primary Teacher, Professional Development and Physical Education

Authored by: Mike Jess , Nicola Carse , Jeanne Keay

Routledge Handbook of Primary Physical Education

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138682344
eBook ISBN: 9781315545257
Adobe ISBN:


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With primary physical education receiving increased political, professional and academic attention (e.g. Kirk, 2005; Quay & Peters, 2008; Tsangaridou, 2012), the subject is beginning to move from its traditionally marginal role in the primary school curriculum (Carse, 2015). This change in fortune is largely due to the perception that physical education during these formative years has the potential to help address the concerns regularly raised about children’s health and wellbeing, physical activity levels and sport participation (Petrie & lisahunter, 2011). Although this attention is to be welcomed, disquiet about the quality of primary physical education remains a persistent feature within the literature (e.g. Harris, Cale & Musson, 2011). In particular, global concerns are regularly voiced about the quality of the physical education experiences received by primary school-aged children when delivered by generalist teachers (e.g. Morgan & Bourke, 2008; Graber, Locke, Lambdin & Solmon, 2008; Griggs, 2010). Given that generalist class teachers are responsible for the delivery of primary physical education in many countries (Tsangaridou, 2012), significant progress is unlikely to be made until issues around the motivation, confidence and competence of those who teach primary physical education are addressed. Therefore, although this chapter acknowledges significant quality improvement in primary physical education will involve an integrated process across the cultural, material-economic and socio-political arenas (Petrie, 2016), the focus will be on the need to find effective ways that support the professional development of generalist class teachers in their teaching of physical education. To address this topic, the chapter is split into four related sections. First, it discusses how traditional approaches to teachers’ professional development are being questioned as more contemporary approaches increasingly recognise the complex nature of teachers’ professional learning. The chapter then considers key contextual factors influencing the position of physical education within the primary school before discussing how the traditional professional development experiences that most generalist teachers receive appear to have done little to address the issue of quality in the subject area. Finally, the chapter considers how findings from a small number of contemporary professional development projects appear to have the potential to act as a catalyst for a shift in the nature of future professional learning development in primary physical education.

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