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Physical Education Models

Physical education is extremely important in today's society. When writing a research paper on the various models of education, you may want to begin by noting that the importance of physical education models dates back to the early Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. In the dialogue Timaeus, Plato spoke of the linkage between the health of the mind and the health of the body and recommended exercise as an important, and enhancing, accompaniment to intellectual activity. The history of the philosophy of education is full of notions that pay heed to the linkage between mental and physical health.  The perception of that linkage, in fact, is why physical education became part of national educational standards and programs in the first place.

Physical Education ModelsWhen teaching physical education, there are a number of approaches, or models, that can be used. They are:

  1. Motor Skills
  2. Fitness
  3. Personal-Social Development

Awareness of each of these models and physical education standards are essential for any educator, as increasing numbers of physical education programs are being eliminated and the responsibility is passed on to general education teachers. By keeping a physical education model in mind, teachers create value and are able to illustrate to administrators the importance of physical education in a curriculum.

Motor Skills Model

In the early grades, one of the most common models of the physical education classroom is on motor skills; this model emphasizes the development of basic physical abilities, ranging from something as simple as running around during a class-wide recess period to exposing children to a wide array of physical activities over an extended period of time.

Fitness Model

A second model is to be integrated throughout a child’s development: fitness. In today’s world of ever-expanding waistlines and a growing spectre of childhood obesity, it only makes sense for all educators to encourage appropriate fitness activities in children. When they can learn what it means to be physically fit, as well as what they can do to hone these behaviors in themselves, their live-long approach to health is likely to be much more positive.

Physical educators should do what they can to make the public understand that the mind-body linkage is no mere myth.  There is a wealth of material for them to use in promoting this understanding.  For example, a family medical guide published by the New York University Medical Center notes that “Regular exercise…may confer mental health benefits.  People who exercise regularly often report greater feelings of self-esteem and fewer feelings of mild to moderate depression and anxiety…”. For example, regulatory aerobic exercise, deep breathing, and circulatory exercise for anxiety can be helpful for children. Physical educators should make the public understand that exercise has profound effects upon the mind, that there now exists a great body of empirical proof that it can be a potent facilitator of mental health and that, as such, it has positive effects on academic achievement.

Personal Social Development Model

A third physical education model impacts personal-social development. Through this type of curriculum integration, physical education instruction incorporates team sports, and emphasizes the traits of cooperation and shared responsibility. Further, this focuses on how students learn, not just what they learn. Teaching them the rules and regulations of a sport is one thing; giving them an opportunity with which they can learn how to cooperate with one another towards a common goal is much more valuable. A final curriculum model for physical education relies on the abstract. Encouraging students to ask why something is important, or to question what the value of such a skill set is, allows them to have a greater sense of appreciation for the content and the classroom environment. When they are taught why they should learn the caloric requirements for a healthy adult, they are much more likely to integrate this knowledge in a meaningful way in their own lives.

Summary of the Philosophy of Physical Education Models

Physical education departments have an enormous opportunity to gain prestige, political clout, and the funding that go with them, if they will make changes, both in terms of substance and image, that link them not with “play” but with “health”.  That opportunity is a function of the fact that exercise is now gaining enormous attention in the popular press in terms of its healthful effects.  It is now generally understood that, in the words of Page, “The connection between regular exercise and good health grows stronger with every study that investigates this crucial component of a healthy life style.” 

It should also be noted that the term “exercise” is no longer viewed simplistically by the public.  People are now aware, as never before, that it is a subject about which there is a great deal to know.  Physical education instructors should, individually and collectively, attain a high level of expertise in this field. Physical educators should be knowledgeable enough to “prescribe” in this field.  The curriculum that trains them should make them competent to do so.  And the publicly viewed not only as parents, but also as school administrators and politicians should be made to understand that physical education professionals can play an important role in maintaining the physical health of students.  Instructors should strive to be the “personal fitness trainers” for their students.  If they do so, and if parents understand that that is what their role now is, then programs now in danger of elimination will be quite, quite safe.

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