In our last post, we discussed the importance of a personally relevant learning experience in physical education. In this post we will take a look at the role of choice in providing such experiences. Students of all ages have requested greater levels of choice in physical education, including a desire to engage in decisions regarding such things as the activities they will be involved in (Dismore & Bailey, 2011), the level of challenge with which they will engage (Dyson, 1995), and even the curriculum development process (Ha, Johns, & Shiu, 2003).
When afforded the opportunity to make choices in physical education, some students have suggested they experience a greater sense of empowerment and are more willing to take ownership of their own learning experience (Leonard, 2014). Some students have demonstrated more willingness to take risks and even lower levels of anxiety when acting on choices they have made for themselves (Haras, Bunting, & Witt, 2006). For some, having played an active role in choosing which activities will be incorporated into their physical education lessons resulted in higher levels of attendance and greater likelihood of being prepared, participating fully, and encouraging others to do so (Enright & O’Sullivan, 2010).
However, practical concerns regarding, for example, classroom management and the fulfillment of curricular objectives, suggest a degree of developmental appropriateness is necessary when offering students choice. While a desire for choice may be warranted and appropriate in some circumstances, there are certainly situations when providing choice (or perhaps too much choice) may be inappropriate. We suggest that students be provided the opportunity to make choices in conjunction with the teacher and/or within guidelines put forth by the teacher. While it may not always be practical to allow students to choose which activities they will engage in or whether or not they will be assessed, it may be possible to provide them choices regarding the equipment they will use and/or how they will modify an activity to achieve an appropriate level of challenge, or what forms of assessment they see as being valuable and helpful to their learning. In our next post we will discuss some of the ways Kretchmar’s component of delight can contribute to a meaningful PE experience.