In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Physical Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Outcomes of Participation in Physical Education
  • Research Overview
  • Spectrum of Teaching Styles
  • Teacher Socialization in Physical Education
  • Student Voice in Physical Education
  • Professional Development in Physical Education
  • Neoliberal Influences on Physical Education
  • Physical Education Futures
  • External Providers of Physical Education
  • Adapted Physical Education

Education Physical Education
Barrie Gordon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0149


The use of physical activity as a means of educating youth is not a new phenomenon. It was a central part of the educational process for many indigenous cultures and for societies such as the Spartans, who used physical activity as a major means of socializing their citizens. In more recent times it has been incorporated into schools to develop “good character” and as a means of addressing concerns around the fitness of young boys to serve in the military. Over the years, physical education has become more educationally focused and its emphasis has continued to change. From the original drill through Swedish gymnastics to the modern-day focus on sport and games, the learning area has continued to evolve. This evolution has been largely driven by changing societal priorities and as such will continue into the future. While the content has steadily changed once the term physical education was established, it has remained consistent within schools. At the university level, however, there have been variations in terminology with terms such as kinesiology and sport pedagogy becoming popular. For the purposes of this bibliography, physical education (PE) is the term that has been used throughout.

General Overviews

A number of trends have occurred within the field of research in PE. The first is the examination of PE’s role in what has been termed public health. Sallis, et al. 1997, which overviews the impact of a two-year PE program, is a good example of this approach. Aligned with PE in public health has been a body of research around the impact of PE on academic outcomes. Trudeau and Shephard 2008, an overview of this literature, offers a summary of many key studies. A second trend within PE has been the development of “instructional models,” which have gained popularity in many countries. Arguably the most influential of these is Sport Education (see Models of Practice and Harvey, et al. 2014, in this section), which was developed by Darryl Seidentop from the Ohio State University in the 1990s. Others include Cooperative Learning (see Models of Practice and Dyson and Grineski 2001, in this section); Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (see Models of Practice and Gordon 2010, in this section); and Teaching Games for Understanding (see Models of Practice and Bunker and Thorpe 1982, in this section) and its various derivatives (see Models of Practice). A number of scholars have taken a critical lens to the teaching and learning in PE (Tinning, et al. 1993), a perspective that has challenged many of the assumptions taken for granted that have been prevalent in PE and society in general.

  • Bunker, D., and R. Thorpe. 1982. A model for the teaching of games in the secondary school. Bulletin of Physical Education 18.1: 5–8.

    Introduces Bunker and Thorpe’s reconceptualizing of the way that games could be taught, and what would be learned, in PE. It introduces the philosophy of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) (see Models of Practice) in an article that has had a significant influence on PE. For teachers and scholars, this is an interesting insight into where it all began.

  • Dyson, B., and S. Grineski. 2001. Using cooperative learning structures in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance 72.2: 28–31.

    DOI: 10.1080/07303084.2001.10605831

    This heavily cited article has been published with PE practitioners as the target audience. It offers clear guidance for teachers wishing to implement cooperative learning into their teaching. It will be particularly useful for teachers interested in practical suggestions of ways of incorporating cooperative learning into their teaching practice.

  • Gordon, B. 2010. An examination of the Responsibility Model in a New Zealand physical education programme. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education 29.1: 21–37.

    Reports on a quasi-experimental study of four New Zealand PE classes. The result showed that that Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) could be successfully implemented in a regular classroom with positive results in classroom relationships and for the teaching and learning that occurred. There was limited support for transfer to other areas of students’ lives.

  • Harvey, S., D. Kirk, and M. O’Donovan. 2014. Sport Education as a pedagogical application for ethical development in physical education and youth sport. Sport, Education and Society 19.1: 41–62.

    DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2011.624594

    The development of ethical behavior is generally considered to be part of the Sport Education model. The authors examine the research and find little evidence of improved ethical behavior due to engagement in Sport Education. They conclude by presenting four specific approaches that can be implemented to help ethical development.

  • Sallis, J., T. McKenzie, J. Alcaraz, B. Kolody, N. Faucette, and M. Hovell. 1997. The effects of a 2-year physical education program (SPARK) on physical activity and fitness in elementary school students: Sport, play and active recreation for kids. American Journal of Public Health 87.8: 1328–1334.

    DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.87.8.1328

    This heavily cited study was one of the first that looked at PE through the lens of public health benefits. This was a large quasi-experimental design-based study involving seven schools and 955 students over two years. The result shows increased activity levels and fitness in the specialist- and teacher-led classes.

  • Tinning, R., D. Kirk, and J. Evans. 1993. Learning to teach physical education. Erskineville, Australia: Prentice Hall.

    The critical focus of the text challenges many of the assumptions taken for granted that are associated with teaching PE. It examines such topics as the relationship between sport and PE; the nature of quality teaching in PE; and the relationship between fitness, health, and PE.

  • Trudeau, F., and R. Shephard. 2008. Physical education, school physical activity, school sports and academic performance. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 5:10.

    DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-10

    Offers an extensive overview of the literature examining the relationship between school PE, school physical activity, and sport and academic performance. The article looks at a range of methodological approaches, including quasi-experimental longitudinal and cross-sectional studies. Succinct summaries are offered of many of the key studies.

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