Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 2: Why is Evidence-Based PE Significant?



Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

Click here to read Part 1 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education.

Suggested criteria for prioritizing physical education research-based programs:

You might begin by asking yourself: What is its relevance to the field? Will it help advance and improve the field of physical education?

SPARK was and is a program that links effective and proven physical education pedagogy and concern for rising childhood obesity. One of the goals of the original studies was to determine that if the SPARK approach increased MVPA, could teachers still effectively instruct physical education so their students successfully gained the skills, concepts, and confidence needed in a quality PE program? This was proven to be true along with increases in students’ motor and sports skills, fitness, MVPA, academic achievement, enjoyment of PE, as well as the quality of teacher instruction (i.e., less time managing, more time promoting fitness, teaching physical skills, etc.). SPARK evidence helped advance and improve the field of physical education.

Furthermore, it has since been examined with in a variety of settings and populations, including variances in race, gender, and poverty, and shown to be adaptable and effective. And for NC, a State that has some of the highest obesity rates among children, SPARK was an excellent fit. For more on various relevant research click here:

Is it important to school, community, parents, field in general? Is it important to the student outcomes?

In NC, we felt the State’s physical educators needed resources aligned to what were the NASPE standards, although there were no national grade level outcomes at the time. However, SPARK did show how their lessons could be used as a resource to align to our state standards and outcomes (objectives), which provided that critical link. It was important to the community who funded the project and the field in general having approximately 97% of the school districts wanting to be trained in SPARK PE. Our state had high levels of childhood obesity so it was important that we not only teach effective PE but address the public health concern of obesity via increased PA and nutrition education. SPARK helped us with all this and more.

Does it align or assist in national priorities (i.e., National PA Plan, Lets Move Active Schools, Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community, etc.)?

At our time of exploring curricula and resources for the teachers in NC, national initiatives were just coming on the scene. However, the alignment today is amazing. It was aligned to the CSHP, PECAT, and National PA Plan, which helped to lift NC’s foundational platform. Now, our physical educators had a common ground to teach from, then add their own good ideas, and accelerate their professional growth. It was then up to each district and teacher to set goals to improve their programs, their content selection, and their instructional strategies over time.

Today, SPARK partners with all the groups mentioned above, investing and/or participating together on Hill events, meetings, or sponsorships. The relationships continue to grow because it is extremely important that SPARK continues to align with national priorities. One of SPARK’s many strengths is the reach it has to grassroots teachers. Through SPARK, we are able to execute many of the action steps from awareness to implementation of these national priorities, and in turn, help improve the quantity and quality of physical education for children and teachers everywhere.

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

* Criteria adapted from Chalkidou, K., Walley, T.,Culyer, A., Littlejohns, P., Hoy, A; Evidence-informed evidence-making; Health Serv Res Policy July 2008 vol. 13 no. 3 167-173.

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