Fitness and physical activity curriculum

Authored by: Malcolm Thorburn

Routledge Handbook of Physical Education Pedagogies

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138820999
eBook ISBN: 9781315743561
Adobe ISBN: 9781317589518


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In many countries in the Anglophone world, school-based physical education (PE) programmes have in recent years become an important policy conduit for emphasising the benefits of physically active lifestyles and for establishing wider connections with healthy behaviours and personal well-being (see, for example, Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2012; New Zealand Curriculum Online, 2007; Scottish Executive, 2006). This policy prioritization has frequently arisen due to concerns (both economic and social) about low participation levels and increases in the number of overweight children (World Health Organization, 2014). However, this position may not last indefinitely, and matters are complicated further by the tendency of policy nowadays to pronounce on aspirations and outcomes with very little elaboration on the in-between implementation details surrounding curriculum planning and pedagogical practices (Priestley & Biesta, 2013). Furthermore, policies, planning and practices in fitness and physical activity have often been poorly thought out; as evident by the overemphasis on performative cultures, energy expenditure metrics, health surveillance and physical fitness testing (Cale, Harris & Chen, 2012). This makes it necessary for those with a responsibility for developing connections between fitness and physical activity and PE to consider how better quality learning and teaching can be achieved, and of how specifically pupils can connect their school-based experiences with their out-of-school interests and active participation goals. In short, how can the qualities of pupils’ learning experiences achieve a wider range of outcomes which collectively contribute not only to fitness and physical activity gains but demonstrate as well that PE has a clear educational and societal relevance? Progress on this basis might go some way to overcoming one major concern, namely that as Kirk (2013, p. 974) notes, physical educators to date have “never achieved their most cherished aspiration, that young people would, as a result of their physical education experience, engage in lifelong physical activity”.

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