NEW Feature! Research to Practice (R2P).

As you may or may not know, there is currently all sorts of research going on in the #physed world. All. The. Time. However, much of it seems to be published in academic journals that are hard to access –  although that IS beginning to change with ‘open access’ and the power of the interweb! Many of my colleagues in the University world, although still publishing in academic journals, also share their work through professional conferences/ publications (e.g. PHE Canada, SHAPE America), excellent blogs (e.g. Ash Casey’s PEPRN) or podcasts (e.g. Risto Marttinen’s Playing with Research in Health and Physical Education) that seek to make research more accessible. As I also feel very strongly that research should be available for practitioners, I regularly feature research in this blog and am always looking for ways to do it better. As a result (and an experiment…), the R2P Research Brief was born!

Although the concept is still a work in progress, this first topic came about via a Twitter question from and follow-up conversations with @rfsprojects. In response, Jodi Harding-Kuriger (current PhD student and longtime #physed teacher) and Lauren Sulz (previous guest blogger and Assistant Prof here at the UofA) worked on what we hope will develop into a series. Let us know your feedback as well as other topics you’d like to see in future R2P Research Briefs!

To introduce our first R2P Topic, here is Jodi (@JodiKuriger):

Engaging girls in Physical Activity (PA) through quality and meaningful Physical Education (PE). This was never as issue for me as a student. I loved going to PE and loved being physically active outside of school.  Throughout elementary and junior high I ran cross country, track & field, played volleyball, basketball, and soccer (Not always well but that didn’t matter much. I was a medium fish in a small pond so I got to stay in the game). My teachers and coaches encouraged me to continue to participate. They set realistic goals during our practices – they made improving our skills a fun challenge. I loved getting sweaty and working hard – all the while knowing that I was growing as a person and athlete.

Entering high school I was a tiny fish in a HUGE pond. I no longer played volleyball, nor basketball. I ran long distance for fun with the run club but I was not particularly competitive in my 5’1” frame. I did play soccer for the high school team. It was one of the only teams that I made all three years. Regardless of my sport experience at the school, I still took PE all through grades 10, 11, and 12. There were many, many educative experiences and several miseducative experiences, but that did not deter me because I simply enjoyed moving.

It was not until I was a PE student teacher that I had to really THINK about and reflect upon engaging girls in PE. I did not understand WHY they wouldn’t want to be in PE, why they wouldn’t want to play, why they wouldn’t want to move.  I can look back now and see that many of my lessons were promoting a culture of hierarchies: skilled vs. unskilled; fit vs. unfit; privileged vs. othered – all promoted through competition and individualism.

It is thanks to my mentor teacher that I took a step back and put myself into the flip flops, boots, and sometimes running shoes of my students. Just because I loved to move and play, did not mean that all my students did.

At the time I was student teaching in a junior high and teaching PE in segregated classes. I had all girls and almost missed the opportunity to create meaningful and engaging lessons WITH and FOR them. Diane (pseudonym – maybe) asked me and the girls in my class to reflect on my first week of teaching. The feedback from Diane and the girls was the impetus for change. If I wanted these girls to love moving as much as I did, I had to make some changes, I needed to co-compose our educative PE experiences.

We ended up co-planning several units that the girls wanted to try. For their fitness unit they asked to try yoga, belly dancing, Pilates, and aerobics (don’t judge or date us!). For their net/wall games we lowered the nets, modified the rules and used volleyballs, balloons, and soccer balls. We worked through strategies and skills that challenged each student in small sided games. As part of our gymnastics unit, we co-created the rubric for their presentation. They wanted to show off their skills and explained what they thought success would look like and how it would be fair for everyone.

Those girls changed my view of PE. They changed my identity from a coach-teacher to a teacher-ally and role model. They challenged me to consider all students and walk in their (comfortable and uncomfortable) shoes. I am so blessed to have had that educative experience with those girls early in my career. They set me on a path of empathy and reflecting teaching and I am forever grateful to them. It is now, as a graduate student, that I have the terminology, research, and the framework to share and continue to engage in meaningful PE programs.

Jodi Harding Kuriger

Check out the FIRST R2P and let us know what you think!