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How Do Preservice Teachers Understand Effective Teaching in Physical Education?

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How Do Preservice Teachers Understand Effective Teaching in Physical Education?

Jiling Liu, M. Ed

Effective teaching (ET) in physical education (PE) happens when students have positive changes in thinking, behavior, and emotion. These changes can result in more positive attitudes toward learning motor skills, more active participation in PE classes, and/or improvement in PE grades. Research shows that what teachers understand affects how they teach. In order to teach effectively, teachers should fully understand what ET means and what constitutes ET. For this reason, physical education teacher education (PETE) programs should equip preservice teachers (students in training) with ET knowledge so that they are more likely to deliver ET in the future.

The goal of PETE programs is to prepare prospective effective teachers for physical education. In our PETE program, preservice teachers need to know not only how to properly perform motor skills such as football throwing and catching but also how to teach younger students effectively. We believe our PETE program is systematic and our preservice teachers are prepared well before they step in middle schools for teaching PE. However, no evidence is available to support this belief. Therefore, a study is needed to examine how preservice teachers understand ET as well as provide reference for similar studies. We hope this study help PETE program instructors better prepare preservice teachers, so they are able to grow into highly effective teachers in the long run.

In this study, we collected 12 preservice teachers’ final written tests as our data. These preservice teachers were all enrolled in our PETE program, completing the very last course before going to student teaching. In their tests, they were asked to define ET and explain what contributes to ET. The qualitative data were analyzed through content analysis. This technique involves breaking sentences down to very smallest meaningful units, which are then reorganized into categories according to their meaning similarities.Three main categories were generated through content analysis. The first category is Definition of ET, where ET was defined as the measurable increase of student learning.  The second category is Components of ET.  Six key ET components were identified, respectively, as teaching styles, teaching skills, time on task, class management, motivation, and safety. The six components are not isolated, but, rather, interact with each other and together bring about ET. For instance, questioning can be used to give feedback, motivate students, and manage classroom. Similarly, motivation can increase student time on task, facilitate classroom management, and maximize student learning outcomes. Class management ensures a safe learning environment and keeps students on task. The third category is Assessment of ET, which can be achieved through observing students performing skills, asking students questions, and checking their written records. The results of the content analyses indicated that the preservice teachers in this PETE program have gained a considerable understanding of ET.

To teach a PE lesson effectively is never an easy job. A clear understanding of ET can help preservice teachers become more capable in the future. In addition to the six components, thoughtful preparation, timely modification, and hard work are also important. For PETE program instructors, it is essential to infuse ET thoughts into preservice teachers. It is also important to create as many opportunities as possible for preservice teachers to acquire hands-on knowledge. By putting theory into practice, preservice teachers will eventually become effective teachers.


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