Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 1: What Constitutes Evidence-Based PE?

by SPARK


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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

The term “evidence-based” is used frequently in education and, fortunately for all of us, is directly applicable to physical education (PE) as well. The team at SPARK feels that a program can claim it is evidence-based only if there is data demonstrating positive results on students and/or teachers linked to relevant outcomes (i.e., activity levels, fitness, skill development, etc.) and if those outcomes have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, it is important that other content experts/organizations (i.e., CDC, N.I.H., National Cancer Institute, etc.) agree with the findings and support the group’s claim(s).

There is also the revelation of a fairly new term “evidence-informed” which sometimes gets confused with evidence-based. As a profession, we need to ask the questions and understand that all research is important. So how do the findings apply to your school and student needs?

We can all find lesson plans from free websites and books, but we should ask ourselves “Is this lesson evidence-based?” The lesson may implement a standard and reach an outcome. If this is the extent of what you want your program to be, there are many lessons to choose from. What makes SPARK so unique, different, and evidence-based, is if you implement the lesson after being trained in the methodology, you will not only implement a standard and outcome, increase the physical activity time a child is active during the day, and help to obtain national recommendations for children to be active, but you are replicating something that has been proven to work.

With a direct link to research, a teacher knows she/he has aligned his/her curriculum choices with public health recommendations that address childhood obesity. SPARK is more than an effective PE program; it is a marriage of quality, SHAPE America Standards-Based PE and public health recommendations, and this makes it the most evidence-based program available in the U.S.

I was a Consultant for the Dept. of Education in North Carolina (NC) for 11.5 years. While serving in this capacity, I wanted to provide my physical educators in NC a foundational framework leading to excellent curriculum and resources for implementation. I saw too many times that my teachers had to start from scratch, basically trying to write their own lessons, on curriculum revisions where Math, Science, and others were reviewing updated texts, assessments, and supplemental materials. Some of the lessons were good, some were not, but it was all they had. I wanted them to have a solid base as a foundation for them to start from, and build their house of curriculum from there. Unfortunately, as a State employee, it was not feasible for me to provide a “statewide” curriculum. Luckily, our partners NCAAHPERD received funding from several sources which were able to help establish this groundbreaking effort (see success story here). In deciding what to do to support NC physical educators, some areas of importance surfaced.

Click here to read Part 2 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education, and click here to read Part 3.

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