Dr. Aaron Beighle hit me up on Voxer to discuss my blog titled The True Argument for Physical Education. He gave me some pushback on my loose verbiage. He went on to post his thoughts here on his vlog (video blog).
I have dictated his vlog for your viewing pleasure:
I want to provide a few very brief definitions. I want to talk about the physical activity as a behavior. It’s just any physical activity or any movement we do. I think we often confuse this with fitness. Fitness is an outcome. Fitness is how well you do on a battery of tests or an individual test but it’s not the same thing as physical activity. Physical activity if it’s done as exercise can improve fitness, but fitness and physical activity are not the same thing.
Academic achievement is just basically standardized test performance. Academic performances are behavior, attendance, attention span, there are all kinds of things that influence academic performance.
I think where we get in trouble is we start focusing on fitness and academic achievement. As a rationale for physical education existing. Which I think physical education exists because we offer something unique that no one else does. But, fitness is something that’s controlled primarily by genetics and maturation. Frankly, some people will never decide to be fit; but, they can be healthy because the health comes from being physically active. We have to keep going back to that. We want kids to be active because the data is pretty clear the data on fitness and academic achievement is correlation and not overly strong.
What is strong is the data on physical activity and academic performance. We know attention span goes up when they are active and behavior problems go down when they are active. Those are two often cited barriers. As physical educators, we can improve and help foster physical activity. It’s really hard to foster and promote fitness, I think we have to be very careful on that. Fitness has its place. I’m not saying that fitness doesn’t have a part of this. I think some will choose to be fit some won’t. We have to focus on physical activity because that’s where the health comes from.
You should check out the book No Sweat by Michele Segar. It’s a fabulous book that shows we have some issues with how we do fitness. We probably aren’t doing it the right way. We are not using the right motivation or helping people find meaning in physical activity.
We need to focus on physical education. It stands on its own for the potential that we have for impacting the health and physical literacy journey for students. It also has physical activity benefits so promotoing physical activity (first) and then… there is also these cognitive benefits as well that are academic benefits as well. We need to be careful about tying in fitness and saying if they do better on fitness tests they will do better academciall. Its a slippery slope and I dont know if we have all the data in yet.
That is a brilliant bit of work right there! The argument isn’t about fitness at all. It’s about movement. This ties in brilliantly to Dr. Oconnor’s latest post titled Teaching Movement for Understanding. We have to go back to the idea of movement as fun and enjoyable. Everything stems from there. Physical Education teaches and encourages physical activity first and foremost. Are there additional benefits in academic behaviors? Absolutely! That is not something we should hang our hat on though.
With that being said, it is a bargaining chip to be used in a system that undervalues us. If we were building a boat the academic benefits would be a decorative bow on the side somewhere. We make the case that students health is more important than test scores. If we focus on that and don’t let the test score pendulum scare us we will be pointed in the right direction as a profession.
P.S. Don’t allow standardized testing in our profession either!