On the status and quality of Physical Education as school subject: An empirical study of classroom and assessment practice

Year: 2008

Author: Gore, Jennifer, Ladwig, James, Amosa, Wendy, Griffiths, Tom

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In the analysis of assessment tasks, significantly higher scores were found on all three dimensions of QT in the Physical Education assessment tasks than in any of the other subjects. These relatively high quality tasks are illustrated in the paper with task and student work samples. Possible explanations for these results that are explored in the paper are (1) qualities and capacities of the teachers themselves who, in Australia, unlike some other countries, enter universities with some of the highest university entrance scores of any students (including engineering and medical students), and/or (2) that they are used to challenging work themselves as learners and thus have higher expectations than some teachers for the work students can produce; (3) the PE syllabuses which are organised around key concepts and deep understanding; (4) the subject matter itself, especially in easily achieving Significance in the relation of topics covered to students' lives and hence close alignment with the QT model (affirmed through content analysis of tasks) (5) the richer or more comprehensive nature of the tasks given in PE which tend to be project-based and designed to be completed over several lessons or weeks.

On the other hand, scores for classroom practice were lower in PE on Intellectual Quality than in any other subject (significantly different only for some), they were the highest in Quality Learning Environment, and in the middle for Significance. Possible explanations for these ratings of classroom practice include - (1) the lower Intellectual Quality of practical lessons versus theory lessons (test this by separating the data where possible); (2) the organisational strengths of PE teachers and the more relaxed relationships of PE teachers with their students which have been documented in the literature that might account for the high scores in Quality Learning Environment; and (3) Significance scores that are affected by the differences between practical and theory lessons. These explanations are explored with reference to the qualitative accounts of lessons and with reference to the interview data gathered from teachers in the study. Comparisons with other analyses of PE curriculum are made (Green, 2000; Kirk, 1992; Penney, 1998).