Saturday, August 17, 2019

Physical Exercise and GPA Essay

Physical education connotes many different things to people. To some it is a subject area which focuses on physical training. Conventionally, this has meant promoting activities which lead to anatomical and physiological development (Sansone, 2000). The notion of â€Å"PT† and calls to improve the physical condition of our nation’s youth in order to provide a strong base for the military have also been consistent with this idea (Ennis, 2001). Others have had a more expansive view of physical education and portrayed the area as â€Å"education through the physical,† rather than of the physical (Pringle, 2000). Such a notion suggests that involvement in a variety of sports and games provides participants not only with opportunities to develop physical prowess, but to learn important social values while developing desirable personal traits. A third major thrust that has affected the meaning attributed to the concept is associated with its recreational function (Ruth, 2006). The basis of this theme is that people perform optimally when they have periodic diversions from their normal â€Å"work† world, and that involvement in physical activity can provide necessary relief and renewal. Closely affiliated with this idea is that physical recreation provides a â€Å"wholesome† and constructive use of one’s free time (Lee2002). Despite such grandiose themes, Duda (2001) has argued that within the larger context of higher education classes focusing on the acquisition of skilled movements and play are viewed as â€Å"†¦ nonintellectual, nonacademic, nonessential, and nonartistic† (p. 433). As a result of such perceptions he believes that physical education is relegated to a peripheral role in the academy, and its practitioners pay a price for its marginal status in their daily lives. Furthermore, Duda suggests that a large part of physical education failing to gain acceptance in higher education is a consequence of the static criteria used to assess academic value in general. According to his analysis value of a curricular offering is typically based on such things as the intellectual challenge of material, the extent to which subject matter is categorized as academic rather than motoric, the usefulness of learning various skills, and the cultural significance of an area of study. His recommendation for redressing physical education’s plight is to convince those using such criteria to assess worth in broader, and less dualistic ways. Hence the types of challenges presented in physical skill acquisition situations might be understood as important stimuli for developing human capacities that complement those capacities acquired from more conventional intellectual pursuits. While the idea of rethinking criteria that should be used for judging academic value may be laudable, how this might come about is difficult to conceive. An alternative and, yet, much simpler approach for improving the viability of physical education classes in higher education is to improve the quality of student outcomes. In essence, it may be that the inclusion of physical education in higher education is not contested on philosophical grounds, but on operational ones. As Duda (2001) conveys â€Å"†¦ performance classes are elective, not required. Skill instructors are rarely hired as tenure track faculty. Credit toward graduation may not be given for such classes, and grading is often pass/fail. Passing marks are virtually assured with a good attendance record† (p. 437). If such a profile is accurate, it is difficult to understand how student achievement can be significant or the entire enterprise viewed as essential to the general curriculum. Indeed, such a profile connotes that the physical education curriculum is soft, and that whether or not students acquire certain information and/or master specific skills is ambiguous. Considering physical education’s past philosophical themes and its current trends of providing opportunities for students to: (a) recreate, (b) build and maintain health through exercise, (c) learn how to compete and cooperate, and (d) develop specific sport skills and levels of fitness, instructors often have difficulty in identifying and utilizing meaningful grading criteria. This has been attributed to both philosophical (Midgley, 2001) and managerial (Pringle, 2000) concerns. Indeed, as observed by Church (2001) many physical educators compute grades based on student behaviours which are unrelated to performance or knowledge objectives, such as dress, participation, and discipline. Interestingly, Ennis (2001) found that in colleges and universities virtually all grading in physical education is left to the discretion of the instructor, including selection of criteria and instruments to be used to assess student achievement. They also reported a trend toward less testing of all types. Consequently, it is not surprising that with so many ideas about what is to be accomplished, and so little control over how this should be done, it is difficult, if not impossible to determine the value of physical activity courses in the general curriculum. Indeed, it is one thing to provide sound philosophical arguments for why a particular discipline belongs in the curriculum, and quite another to operationalize the philosophy so that its essence is actualized. Recent studies suggest the importance of objective assessment not only as a device to promote the legitimacy of physical education in an academic setting, but as a tool to promote learning. For example, Pringle (2000) showed that student achievement in table tennis classes reflected the focus of evaluation. Students graded totally on physical skills performed most skilfully at the end of a class performed most skilfully, while those graded on attendance and participation had lower performance scores but the highest attendance rates. As well, Lee (2002), demonstrated how the proper use of evaluation and grading tools promotes on task behaviour and superior skill development in volleyball. Chen (2001), using a riflery task, also demonstrated that grading based on task competence was superior to grading based merely on participation when skill development was examined. Hidi (2000) further argues that the appropriate use of grading can promote positive attitudes towards a course, develop a student’s sense of confidence, and lead to substantial achievement. The reason why a rift exists between using grading as an integral part of the learning process, and using it only to fulfil administrative requirements seemingly is a complex problem that involves philosophical, technical, and practical issues (Duda, 2001). Yet, in a time when accountability is expected, and when cost cutting is widespread, empirical evidence for the integrity of a program is imperative. What and how we grade conveys a great deal about who we are, what we do, what we can accomplish, how we are viewed by others outside of our field, and whether physical education is considered as essential to the mission of education. Hence, the purpose of the present investigation was to acquire empirical descriptive data about grading of physical education in higher education. In light of our field’s history of divergent philosophical views, ambitious, and often ambiguous goals, and its defensive position in higher education (Duda, 2001), an examination of what and how we grade would seemingly shed light on where we are as a discipline. Furthermore, such an investigation might help identify important issues that need to be addressed and resolved if we are to gain the degree of acceptance the field has so desperately sought over the years. Method Instrument To acquire information about college physical education programs a questionnaire was developed which, in addition to requesting information about an institution’s profile (e. g. , public-private, size, approximate percentage of students enrolled in physical education, etc. , asked a series of questions about its physical education activity program. These included: (a) whether students received academic credit which counted in a student’s GPA, (b) the number and duration of class meetings, (c) how important various factors such as skill development, effort, and attendance were in computing a grade, (d) whether the department had a policy on grading, (e) the approximate percentage breakdown of grades awarded (e. g. , As, Bs, Cs, etc. ), and (f) whether the issue of grading had been considered by the department in the past five years. Prior to mailing the survey, questions were pilot tested on a group of five senior collegiate faculty members in a department of exercise and sport studies. These individuals each had taught undergraduate and graduate theory courses as well as a variety of undergraduate physical activity classes at a number of colleges and universities. They were quite knowledgeable about different types of service programs (e. g. , credit, required, no credit non-required) and how they typically operated. Furthermore, they were apprised of the questionnaire’s intent, and were asked to provide feedback on the clarity of questions as well as the instrument’s overall format. Based on feedback from this group, questions were reworded, added and deleted. In addition, the sequence of questions was revised for the purpose of providing a more coherent structure. The final version of the survey contained eight questions, some of which had subparts. As well, pilot testing demonstrated that a respondent could complete the questionnaire in approximately ten minutes. Coding of Data As surveys were returned data were coded into an Excel Spreadsheet by two trained assistants, and then analyzed using Exel’s statistical functions. It is noteworthy to report that during the data reduction process it became evident, as conveyed by a number of respondents, that quantitative data which were requested from a number of questions did not exist Consequently, many respondents either did not answer such items or acknowledged that they merely volunteered their own perceived best guess, or a numerical range within which they believed the actual value requested would occur. Hence, a decision was made to code and analyze all data acknowledging that, for the most part, they only reflect respondent’s best estimates, rather than â€Å"hard† numbers. Furthermore, where a range was given, the midpoint was used in further analyses. In passing, the observation that certain types of data were not acquired or readily available may in itself be an important finding since a department’s viability may depend on such information. Items falling into this category included such things as: (a) the number of students taking physical education classes in a semester, (b) the typical grade distribution (e. g. , % As, % Bs, etc. ), (c) the factors utilized to compute course grades, and (d) whether an institutional limit existed for the number of physical education courses that could be taken by a student for academic credit. Results Sample Within a thirty day period of mailing surveys 556 (44%) responses were received. Table 1 shows a break down of respondents by institution type and size. Because of financial limitations, further attempts to obtain data from nonrespondents were not attempted. Of the 556 respondents, 78 (14%) indicated that they did not have, or no longer had a physical education activity program. This was somewhat of a surprising finding, especially so because many conveyed that their institution’s program had been recently eliminated. Whether a trend toward program elimination actually existed is of significant import to our profession and deserves immediate attention. Schools which indicated that they did not offer physical education classes were removed from further analysis, leaving 478 institutions in the database. Is Academic Credit Given for Physical Education Activity Courses? An important question posed by this investigator was whether institutions grant academic credit which counts in a student’s GPA for taking physical education activity courses. Presumably, this would indicate whether classes were viewed as a meaningful part of the institution’s general curriculum. It was found that 335 (72. %) of respondents reported that academic credit which is computed in a student’s GPA was awarded for physical education activity courses. Table 2 reveals that Public State Universities and Colleges were somewhat more likely to award academic credit than Private Universities and Colleges. Furthermore, while a few institutions had a unique formula for computing the amount of credit earned in a class, nearly all institutions granted one credit per course. A follow-up question probed how much of such credit may be counted in a student’s total academic program. Although there seemed to be a great deal of uncertainty regarding the answer to this question, many respondents indicated that their institution had not set a limit or did not have a policy (only 65% of respondents who count physical education credit in the GPA responded). Those that were clear on this issue indicated that a limit did exist, and that the median value across institutions and within school categories was four credits. A subsequent question probed what the course time commitment was for earning credit. Across institutional types classes typically met for the length of a semester (14-15weeks), and for two contact hours a week. How are Grades Computed? A number of questions regarding how grades were computed ‘followed. An initial issue was whether or not the department had a policy on grading. The idea here was to get a sense of whether faculty members agreed on how such things as skill, knowledge, and class participation should be weighed in determining a student’s performance. In regard to this question, 80% of respondents indicated that their departments did not have a formal grading policy. Nonetheless, many individuals conveyed that students were administered tests of skill and knowledge, but that course instructors ultimately determined assessment tools, how various components were weighed, and the course grade computed. Because most departments did not have a formal grading policy, the next set of questions should be interpreted as only giving a general sense of how grades are computed from a respondent’s general perceptions. This question probed whether grades were competency based (i. e. students are assessed on the absolute level of performance attained), or norm based (i. e. , students are graded in relation to other students in the class). Results showed that most respondents (60. 6%) thought that grading at their institution was competency based, although a fair number reported that they thought their grading system was more norm based (23. 3%). The remaining 16. 1% either were unsure or did not respond to this item. Another question related to this issu e was whether the amount learned was considered to be as important as the level of performance attained. Interestingly, 72% of respondents believed that instructors at their institutions weighed the amount learned as being equivalent to the proficiency attained, while 21% did not see these of equal importance. The remaining 7% were missing or undecided. In light of the previous data indicating a bias toward competency based grading, the response to this question is surprising since the amount learned would only be of importance if it correlated highly with proficiency attained. This may or may not be the case, but needs further investigation. Another way of probing the importance of factors employed in computing a grade was to ask respondents about how important they believed a subset of factors were in arriving at a grade. They rated the factors of (a) effort, (b) attendance, (c) attitude, (d) amount learned and (e) level of performance on a five-point scale anchored by the terms very important(5). Overall, attendance (1. 3) and amount learned (1. 4) had the lowest median values (i. e. , highest perceived weighting). The level of performance attained (1. ), and effort expended (1. 8) followed closely, while attitude (2. 3) appeared lowest in importance. It should be noted that all of these criteria tended to fall between the very important and uncertain end of the continuum. With the exception of performance attainment, it is not clear why the other factors identified were viewed as important in grading, if grading is competency based. For that matter, these criteria would also be somewhat problematic for a norm referenc ed standard which focuses on relative competency attainments. Respondents were also asked to estimate the percentage distribution of grades in physical education at their institution. Overall, as were perceived to be the most prevalent grade and were awarded to 51% of students. Bs were the next most prevalent grade awarded to 31% of students with Cs following at 14%. Ds and Fs were infrequently given with a combined percentage of 7%. Has the Issue of Grading been Considered in the Past Five Years? A final question asked whether the issue of grading had been considered by a department in the past five years. Although 51% had not discussed this issue, 47% had done so. The questionnaire requested respondents who answered this question in the affirmative to comment on what issues were discussed by their departments. Clearly, the topic of whether to change from a letter grade system to a pass-fail system was the most widely discussed issue. Related to this was the subject of grade inflation and the idea that moving to a pass-fail system may reduce pressure from various constituencies (e. g. , administrators, faculty, regents) to reduce the number of high grades awarded. There were also numerous comments about criteria to be used in grading, consistency in grading across sections of a course, and among different courses. Several respondents also commented on the conflict between trying to encourage lifelong participation m activities and the negative connotations of having to grade based on an individual’s proficiency. From the nature and number of comments collated, it was evident that departments have grappled with this issue, but remain in a quandary about an ideal solution.

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