A New Model for PE is Necessary After COVID

Future Feature

In this episode of the PE Express podcast, Dr. Pangrazi outlines what Physical Education could look like after COVID. He details four characteristics of lifetime activity and explores ways to get students and adults motivated to stay fit.

[0:03] Let me share with you a little bit today about lifetime activity and what it is.

[0:20] If you ask a physical education teacher what they teach, most will usually give you a description that includes skills, fitness, and lifetime physical activities. Ask the question, “is it important for our graduates to be active for a lifetime?” and you will get a resounding, “well, yes, of course it is.” We have advocated lifetime physical activity for so many decades, and still the overriding issue is that most adults are inactive and sedentary. So does physical education receive a failing grade? What if we graduated over 90% of our students who couldn’t read or do basic math? And yet we graduate over 90% of students who don’t participate in the lowest level of daily physical activity as adults. Because of COVID-19, it may be some time before parents are willing to have their children participate in the physical education environment. Particularly where kids are handling the same equipment and generating physical contact.

We have advocated lifetime physical activity for so many decades, and still the overriding issue is that most adults are sedentary. So does #physed receive a failing grade? We have the opportunity to create a new model. #PhysEd Share on X

We have an opportunity to create a new model

[1:29] With COVID-19 dictating that we deliver physical education online, we have an opportunity to create a new delivery model. Maybe it is time we deliver lifetime activity classes to all students in K-12. If you think about it, we’re now delivering and monitoring to our students in a home environment. We’re using all kinds of media, hard copy, and knocking on doors to reach out to students. We’re more concerned about getting homebound students to move and be active than measuring their fitness levels and skill performance. This all smells a bit like focusing on lifetime activity to me.

The Characteristics of Lifetime Activity

[2:10] So what are the characteristics of a lifetime activity that will hook students, help make them a habit, and help create a desire to do it every day, much like brushing your teeth. Long-lasting physical activity behaviors are characterized by the following with kudos to William Glasser:

  • #1. The active behavior is non competitive and valued as something you want to do every day.
  • #2. The activity is easy to do. Doesn’t require polished skills and offers social and emotional benefits with a minimum of mental effort.
  • #3. The activity you choose could be done individually or with a friend, but doesn’t require support from others. It makes you feel successful. You don’t compare yourself to others. You avoid personal criticism and you find the joy in your effort.

[3:08] These are the social and emotional constructs that must be met if students are going to develop activity behaviors that stick with them throughout life. Think about it, most of what we measure in physical education deals with the physical performance side, fitness, and skills. That obviously doesn’t produce students who want to be active adults it hasn’t worked. So the next hypothesis is that they must have knowledge about fitness and health, and then they’ll go out and be active. Unfortunately, most adults know what they must do to be active and how to do it, but they just choose not to do it.

What is the future of physical education after COVID? Using many different combinations to reach our students and to focus on all students participating in lifetime activity. #PhysEd Share on X

The Future of PE After COVID

[3:48] Maybe it hasn’t worked because we haven’t taken the time to teach the third part of the triangle. The social and emotional issues that are tied to being an active person. Just reflect on the four points I mentioned above: Non-competitive, personal choice, able to do it alone, and a belief you are capable without personal and external criticism. So what might this mean for the future of physical education after COVID? It implies using many different combinations to reach our students and to focus on all students participating in lifetime activity.

[4:30] For example, maybe we use physical educators in entirely different roles. One day a week, they teach health in a large auditorium to half the school – six-feet apart of course. Two days a week they promote students being involved in lifetime activities with assignments for walking, biking, hopscotch, tag games, depending on the age of the student and the other two days they used to help students with weight management, active participation behaviors and healthy eating, to name a few points of focus.

[5:05] Of course, I don’t have it all figured out yet. All of us must work toward a new model to assure that most activity students accumulate is done outside the school day. Just as we require books, computers and supplies for students, why can’t we require a supply of home equipment such as balls, light weights, jump ropes and pedometers and all students must be part of some activity? It’s not going to be a choice. It can’t be a choice. It has to be a mandate.

A New Model is Necessary

[5:35] Let’s start thinking about what needs to be done. If we plan forward, we won’t fall behind. Even if COVID restrictions are lifted at the start of the year, a new model is necessary. We aren’t graduating students who are engaged in personal health maintenance, and the future of our profession is now. You could be the last generation of teachers if the public sees no value in physical education. The time to start is now.

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13 Responses

  1. Hello Dr Robert Pangrazi. Your article is very helpful for me now. I am a PE teacher in Quito, Ecuador. We are trying to put things together for the next year. It is hard to organize the activities because of COVID. It will very nice to know if you can give me any more advices / activities / ideas etc, that you can share with me. Thanks a lot!!!

    1. Hi Chris, I would like to connect with you about an international project I am working on. I am looking to connect with PE teachers from outside Canada and the USA. If interested I can be messaged on twitter @hpe4pdsb. I hope to hear from you.

  2. “…in a large auditorium to half the school. ” ???? Poor advice regarding this large space and number. I do have a great deal of respect for the man and his imprint on the profession

  3. I would agree with Patricia regarding her comments on large spaces and number of people. At the time I wrote the article, it appeared that physical distancing and masks would be adequate. Obviously, recently there has been much more data showing the virus can travel much farther via aerosol transmission. Indoor spaces and large groups of people are unsafe.

  4. Hi Dr. Pangrazi,

    I read the threads above and at the end of one you wrote, “indoor spaces and large groups of people are unsafe”.

    I am going to be teaching PE class outside as much as possible, weather dependent. I have 22-28 kids in some of my classes. When the weather is bad I will be going inside to a gymnasium.

    I will be having a mask and most likely a face shield. The kids are allowed to take off their face masks if they feel “overexerted”. I am having a hard time defining what “overexerted” is. It means different things to many people. I am concerned they will take off their masks at the slightest amount of activity, therefore, possibly making the environment susceptible to airborne pathogens.

    So, I ask, are the class sizes, being inside a gym and kids being able to take off their mask if they feel “overexerted,” conducive to a safe environment, even if I have social distance guidelines in place?

  5. It is a thoughtful question – I will share a couple of my thoughts. First, a safe environment is your primary concern. I think you have to deal with overexertion much in the same way we think about students with asthma or other respiratory issues. They make the judgment when they are feeling overexerted. And, they stop before they reach overexertion so the mask stays on at all times. The worst time to take a mask off is when you are breathing hard and expelling many droplets and aerosols. The second point is for you to try and not take them to the point of overexertion. Everyone will have to make changes during this difficult time.

  6. Great information!
    I am teaching a university class online this fall ,starting tomorrow. I have been teaching future classroom teachers how to teach health related standard based physical education for about 25 years.
    I highly respect Dr. Pangrazi for all he has done for physical education.
    Can I share this link article with my university students?

  7. Wonderful points and exactly what I have been trying to emphasize. The comparison of the thought of passing students who can’t read or do basic math to passing 90% of our students who don’t participate in the lowest level of daily physical activity was an eye opener. This should turn some heads and start a new movement. I am very interested in further information and suggestions on engaging students in doing that basic daily physical activity!

  8. Hello Sir:
    Roger Austin here from West Perry HS. We spent time talking many times
    at the presentation you would give in August at Mid West in Penna. Other than
    some walking and maybe a little bit of archery what would be some activities that would
    fit into our current conditions to keep HS students active. We as teachers here usually run
    a 4 day a week activity curriculum and one day (Fridays) set aside for health. We/the staff
    have now become everyday classroom health teachers with one day being allowed for some kind
    of activity. Hope you are doing well/thanks for the updated articles and help. RAustin/West Perry HS

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