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Exploring Future Research in Physical Education: Espousing a Social Justice Perspective

Jennifer L. Walton-Fisette, K. Andrew R. Richards, Erin E. Centeio, Todd R. Pennington, and Tim Hopper

rqes cover december 2019

SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators (2015) recently launched the 50 Million Strong campaign “to prepare all children to lead active and healthy lives.” This charge emphasizes four interrelated areas: (a) physical activity, (b) healthy behaviors, (c) positive health and physical education policies, and (d) health and physical education standards. As a part of this agenda, SHAPE America has asked groups of scholars to work in collaborative teams to explore future research topics and questions intended to advance the goal of 50 Million Strong. In this paper, we will explore future research directions and pedagogical opportunities for teacher educators as well as preservice and in-service teachers in the areas of physical education related to (a) occupational socialization, (b) curriculum, instruction and assessment, (c) technology, and (d) professional development. Collectively, we argue for a research agenda that examines the explicit integration of social justice education (SJE) within physical education. This includes supporting language in relevant standards and policy documents, such as the Initial Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) Standards(SHAPE America,2017), and the National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education(SHAPE America,2014). We situate our call for research in these four areas through the adapted social-ecological framework (SEF).

As explained by Castelli and van der Mars (2018), the four charges of the 50 Million Strong campaign stretch across multiple levels of the SEF. Stemming from Bronfenbrenner’s (1989) ecological systems theory, Sallis, Owen, and Fisher (2008) created the SEF, which identifies five levels that influence youth’s physical education and activity experiences within both social and physical environments: intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy. Examples of influence in relation to physical education and activity include: physical activity enjoyment and motivation (intrapersonal), social support and parental/guardian support and modeling (interpersonal), school facilities and equipment as well as opportunities for participation (organizational), access to programs as well as district-level policies (community), and state and national policies (public policy; Castelli van der Mars,2018).

Physical education scholars have historically encouraged a model of physical education that goes beyond sport and includes a more holistic approach to physical activity where all students have the ability to become physically literate and educated individuals (Penney Jess,2004). O’Connor, Alfrey, and Payne (2012) discuss utilizing the SEF to accomplish this task by “extending beyond performance and incorporating inter-intra-personal and environmental considerations for physical activity within the education context.” (p. 366). To make this shift, one must be aware of unique characteristics of students and their communities, and the mutual responsibility between students and the community systems with which they engage to promote life-long physical activity.

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