Spoiler Alert: It’s not the equipment, technology or dreaded state PE Tests
As a former high school physical education teacher, Kevin Mercier, EdD, associate professor and director of Adelphi’s undergraduate physical education program, noted that students who enthusiastically participated in PE were more likely to maintain an active lifestyle. Yet many students seemed to lose interest in PE as they grew older—an observation later confirmed by Dr. Mercier’s scholarly research. His current work attempts to identify factors that shape students’ attitudes and discover ways to inspire students to remain physically active throughout life.
In collaboration with Anne Gibbone, EdD, associate professor of physical education, and Corinne Donovan, PhD, a former assistant dean in the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, Dr. Mercier compared perspectives of students from three schools that received large federal grants with those from two schools that did not receive funding. Their findings—that funding for PE equipment, curricula, professional development and technology did not decrease student apathy—were published in 2020 as “Investigating the Impact of Federal Funding on Students’ Attitudes Toward Physical Education” in The Physical Educator.
Dr. Mercier approached the subject from a different angle in “Do fitness test performances predict students’ attitudes and emotions toward physical education?” which appeared in a July 2019 issue of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. Contrary to common assumptions, Dr. Mercier and his co-authors found scant association between fitness testing and improved attitudes toward physical education class, likely because fitness tests are isolated events and not part of a meaningful experience.
Dr. Mercier recommends a more holistic approach to PE teaching. “If the goal of PE class is to allow students to gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be active throughout life, then PE should focus on lifetime activity,” he said.
Mercier, K., Corinne Donovan, and Anne Gibbone. “Investigating the Impact of Federal Funding on Students’ Attitudes Toward Physical Education.” The Physical Educator, vol. 77, no. 1, 2020, pp. 59-77.
Simonton, Kelly L., Kevin Mercier, and Alex C. Garn. “Do fitness test performances predict students’ attitudes and emotions toward physical education?” Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, vol. 24, no. 6, 2019, pp. 549-64.