High Quality Physical Education

High quality physical education teaches students the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime.

Appropriate actions must be taken in four main areas to ensure a high quality physical education program:

  • Curriculum.
  • Policies and environment.
  • Instruction.
  • Student assessment.

Policy and environmental actions that support high quality physical education require the following:

  • Adequate instructional time (at least 150 minutes per week for elementary school students and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students).
  • All classes be taught by qualified physical education specialists.
  • Reasonable class sizes.
  • Proper equipment and facilities.

Instructional strategies that support high quality physical education emphasize the following:

  • The need for inclusion of all students.
  • Adaptations for students with disabilities.
  • Opportunities to be physically active most of class time.
  • Well-designed lessons.
  • Out-of-school assignments to support learning.
  • Not using physical activity as punishment.

Regular student assessment within a high quality physical education program features the following:

  • The appropriate use of physical activity and fitness assessment tools.
  • Ongoing opportunities for students to conduct self-assessments and practice self-monitoring of physical activity.
  • Communication with students and parents about assessment results.
  • Clarity concerning the elements used for determining a grading or student proficiency system.

A High Quality Physical Education Curriculum

A curriculum is a sequential system for delivering learning experiences to students. A physical education curriculum is the framework that provides guidance for teaching skills and providing physical activity instruction.

A high quality physical education curriculum will be based on the national standards in the document Moving Into the Future: National Standards for Physical Education,1 which describes what a physically educated student should know and be able to do. It emphasizes meaningful content, which includes the following:

  • Instruction in a variety of motor skills designed to enhance child and adolescent development.
  • Fitness education and assessment that allows for understanding and improvement of physical well-being.
  • Development of cognitive concepts related to motor skills and fitness.
  • Opportunities to improve social and cooperative skills.
  • Opportunities to increase the value placed on physical activity for health, enjoyment, self expression, and confidence.

Appropriate sequencing of learning activities is critical to developing a high quality physical education curriculum. Appropriate sequencing involves the following:

  • Ensuring that motor skills, physical activity, and fitness assessments are age and developmentally appropriate.
  • Methods of teaching motor and movement skills that ensure that basic skills lead to more advanced skills.
  • Plans to appropriately monitor, reinforce, and prepare for student learning.

The effectiveness of school physical education is enhanced when it is implemented as an integral part of Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) and when physical education outcomes are reinforced by other components of a school health program.

  1. National Association of Sport and Physical Education. Moving into the Future: National Standards for Physical Education. 2nd ed. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education; 2004.