Middle School Students’ Perceptions of Culturally and Geographically Relevant Content in Physical Education

Luciana Braga, Eloise Elliott, Emily Jones, Sean Bulger


Introduction: Advocates for non-traditional approaches to physical education (PE) emphasize the need for physical educators to design curricula that foster students’ engagement in physically active lifestyles outside of the school setting. Accordingly, current guidelines for PE curriculum design recommend the inclusion of content that is relevant to the students’ cultural background and their geographical environment (Society of Health and Physical Educators, 2009, 2015). Purpose: This study investigated how less predisposed to be active (LPA) and more predisposed to be active (MPA) students perceived the incorporation of culturally and geographically relevant content in a newly developed standards-based middle school PE curriculum. Methods: The study followed a sequential mixed-methods approach. In Phase One, two instruments measured attraction to physical activity and perceived athletic competence of 116 students. In Phase Two, 47 students (selected based on Phase One results) participated across twelve focus groups. Results: Four overarching themes emerged from both LPA and MPA focus groups’ data: (a) Enjoyment, (b) Learning, (c) Value, and (d) Challenges. Findings from this study revealed a sense of increased perceptions of competency and value of PE among students as a result of their engagement with the new content. Conclusion: This study underlines the importance of selecting PE content that is innovative, challenging, meaningful, and relevant to the students’ culture and geographical environment.

Keywords: physical education, physical activity, curriculum, culture, geographical environment

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