The role of motor competence in meaningful physical education: Part 2

In our previous post we discussed some ways motor competence can help learners experience meaningfulness in their physical education or youth sport participation. In particular, the ways in which learners perceive their motor competence – both in reference to a task and in reference to other learners around them – can strongly influence the meaningfulness they attach to a learning situation (Gray, et al. 2008).

Our work with undergraduate physical education and kinesiology students has helped us identify some other ways we might think about how motor competence contributes to a meaningful experience. In working with mostly competent movers (i.e. university students) we initially felt it might be difficult to provide learning situations that allowed them to experience for themselves how increased motor competence can foster meaningfulness. We felt that other aspects of meaningfulness (e.g., social interaction, challenge) would be the dominant themes in their experience. However, their responses provided us with a very clear understanding of two ways motor competence can lead to meaningfulness.

One way they spoke about motor competence was in terms of mastering previously acquired skills – in short, our students found meaning in being able to hone their competence across a variety of movement tasks – to become good or better at something they had tried before. Another way they spoke of motor competence leading to meaningfulness was in movement tasks that were novel to them. For example, games such as Sepak Takraw and Cricket were new to many of our students, and they found learning new skills (such as batting and bowling) or applying previously acquired skills to new situations (kicking in Sepak Takraw) to add to the meaningfulness of their experiences.

This reminds us that opportunities to develop motor competence can lead to a meaningful experience across ages and stages of development. For young learners, there are plenty of opportunities to learn new skills they can apply across a wide variety of activities that they may choose to pursue as they grow. Also, for competent movers (in high school and throughout adulthood) there are opportunities to acquire new skills but also to apply previously mastered skills to new situations. Understanding ways motor competence can provide meaningful experiences can thus help teachers and coaches plan for these types of situations.

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