Guiding principles for all of physical education just got a facelift thanks to the University of New Mexico’s College of Education & Human Sciences (COEHS).
The effort to guide inclusive principles and actions came from one undergraduate course led by Assistant Professor Victoria Shiver.
In PEP 319, teacher candidates learn about the methods, activities and more behind a proper physical education (P.E.) class and physical educator.
“Teacher candidates should leave being able to identify and apply effective teaching, processes and behaviors while presenting movement activities,” Shiver said.
One of the many components to the substantial curriculum in the program is something called ‘Appropriate Instructional Practice Guidelines, K-12: A Side-by-Side Comparison’ Utilized by Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America, these guidelines are like a treasure trove of information for future educators across the country. It covers five categories, focusing on learning environment, instructional strategies, curriculum, assessment and professionalism.
“Across every single grade level it provides examples connected to the standards of what's good practice and what's bad practice,” Shiver said. “It’s developed through SHAPE, our flagship group. They kind of set the tone for everyone to follow. We teach rooted in standards that they provide.”
Still, hardly any document is perfect. That’s something Shiver and her class discovered together this semester.
The class analyzed appropriate and inappropriate mannerisms, as well as examples of situations they may encounter in the field. One section, describing an innappropriate practice in the realm of diversity, caught the eye of one student in particular. It reads:
“1.4.1 The physical education environment supports highly skilled children more fully than children with less skill development (e.g., posters on display are predominantly of male professional athletes from the “major” sports) (2009, p. 6).”
Shiver says when reviewing the policy, junior Aliyah Gonzales spoke plainly: that’s not inclusive.
“As a pre-service teacher, I have observed many students with different abilities but most importantly students of different diversity and backgrounds. Students should never have to try to fit in rather classrooms need to be that supporting environment that acknowledges all students. ” Gonzales said.
Upon further discussion and review, Shiver said there was a consensus among everyone who took a glance at those few lines.
“It's saying if you are in those categories you’re clearly less skilled, it sounds like you’re less than. That's how it read through to my students,” Shiver said.
Shiver says they could have moved on from this reading. Yet, after thought given outside of class, it was decided they would not turn a blind eye. They should all take action together.
“I thought about it after class and discussed it with my colleague and I was like well we can't just leave it at that. If I'm teaching advocacy, and teaching that we should be making positive changes, we have to make these changes,” Shiver said.
“So you know what, as a class project and a form of advocacy in action we're gonna rewrite what we think this should look like as a class and send it off,” she said.
The students created this new statement, reading:
"1.4.1 The physical education environment supports some children’s ability and/or backgrounds more fully than others (e.g., posters on display are predominantly of male professional athletes from the “major” sports) and doesn’t acknowledge race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, or skill level. "
The class crafted the message and sent it off to the CEO of SHAPE America, not expecting anything in response.
“I said you know what, we may not hear anything, but we did our part to try to make a change here,” Shiver said.
Yet that afternoon, CEO Stephanie Morris responded with the all clear. SHAPE America’s council would review the revisions made by Shiver’s class, and implement them.
“It’s so funny because I don't think the class initially fully understood that they changed a national document– that this is big time,” she said. “I think it was meaningful and I don’t think opportunities like this come up often. This was a teachable moment.”
A simple action of advocacy was changing a quintessential document for physical education's leading national organization.
“Changing this one little thing, has a big impact now in the way it reads. It is more inclusive and all of these people using this form understand how to apply in a better way. We accept, acknowledge, respect everyone that comes into our gym space. We should all be doing that. We should do that even as people,” she said.
That’s something Shiver attributes to UNM.
“Our program really focuses on culturally relevant teaching and ensuring all voices are heard,” she said. “It’s something we had been weaving into all of our classes, and we’d already been challenging students to think a little more deeply.”
That environment as it was honed all semester, made Gonzales feel comfortable in speaking out, and happy with the outcome, especially as an Indigenous woman.
“I’m still in shock about the change I have made specifically within SHAPE documents that many educators use today,” she said. I am thrilled that my voice and ideas were heard. I want students to feel the same.”
The two believe although it may seem inconsequential to some, now, millions of future teachers across the world will be one step closer to creating a fully inclusive environment, all thanks to UNM students and their professor.
“I was so impressed with their ability to speak up,” Shiver said. “I don’t see that very often. This group of students has done a nice job of being critical thinkers and being world changers. I’m hoping that means that they're gonna continue on keeping a keen eye out and standing up for what’s right.”
Learn more about the Physical Education Program and its degree options at the COEHS.