The role of fun in meaningful physical education: Part 1

Perhaps unsurprisingly, fun has often been linked to meaningful movement experiences.  Some students have suggested that fun in physical education is more motivating than participating for health’s sake (Hemming, 2007), and it is often a primary reason for liking an activity (Rikard & Banville, 2006) and/or continuing participation (Koekoek, Knoppers, and Stegeman, 2009).  So for the physical education teacher or coach aiming to teach/coach toward meaningful experiences, it seems important to plan for fun.

Kretchmar (2006) suggests that making physical education fun shouldn’t be too difficult. He believes what distinguishes physical education from other curricular subjects is its ability to get students out of their chairs and into “the greatest playgrounds known to human kind… If we cannot get 80 percent or more of our students to say that physical education is absolutely the best part of the school day, then we are probably squandering our playground assets” (p. 7).

One way to maximize fun and maintain the educative value of physical education experiences may be through using Game-Centred Approaches (GCAs) and Sport Education instructional models.  Lessons taught using the Games Sense model have helped students who were otherwise ambivalent about sport and physical education to find fun in their learning experiences (Georgakis & Light, 2009).  Similarly, students being taught a series of physical education lessons using the SE model reported significant increases in fun, while students experiencing a traditional sport-based physical education curriculum did not (Wallhead & Ntoumanis, 2004).

Some pedagogical models seem to effectively facilitate fun in physical education, undoubtedly a critical element of a meaningful experience.  However, is fun enough to effectively foster a meaningful movement experience, and is it possible for a physical education lesson to be too much fun?  We aim to explore these questions in more depth in our next post.

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