Study finds gap between aims of Canadian physical education curriculum and expectations

A study of physical education curriculum across Canada has found that while the curriculum’s stated aims are focused on healthy active living through physical activity, the actual learning outcome statements focus primarily on movement skills, games and sport techniques.

The study, published in the academic journal European Physical Education Review, was conducted by Jenna Lorusso, PhD candidate at Western’s Faculty of Education, along with lead author Michelle Kilborn from the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Nancy Francis from Brock University.

Beginning in January 2013, it involved an in-depth analysis of Grade 1 to Grade 9 physical education curriculum documents from all provinces and territories and sought to gain a deeper understanding of physical education across the country.

“What we found was a conflict between what the curriculum says it aims to do, and what students are expected to learn,” says Lorusso. “The aim statements, or vision for the curriculum, focus on teaching how to live healthy active lifestyles, but the measureable learning outcomes focus largely on evaluating individual physical skill, for example, if a student can successfully throw a ball with an overhand throw.”

The researchers conducted the study, An Analysis of Canadian Physical Education Curricula, in order to help contribute a Canadian voice to the international discussion on physical education. They hope the findings become a catalyst for discussion and lead to a shift from performance-driven, competition-oriented delivery of physical education in Canada to more of a participation-driven, lifestyle-oriented curriculum.

“Physical education can be very meaningful if we want it to be,” says Lorusso. “There’s a lot more to healthy, active living than learning to play sports. We want provinces and territories to think about what has, what is and what should be influencing their curriculum in order to ensure this country can have healthy, active citizens in an increasingly technological and sedentary world.”

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