The role of delight in meaningful physical education – Part 1

In a previous blog post, we discussed the importance of fun in a meaningful physical education experience.  While acknowledging the importance of fun, we also challenged physical educators to recognize that fun alone is not sufficient to provide a rich and meaningful experience.  Kretchmar (2006) suggests attention be given to another affective objective beyond fun, which he refers to as delight. Others might describe what Kretchmar is hinting at as joy or flow. In regard to physical education students, he suggests that through delight “physical education will be changed from merely a good part of their school day to an unforgettable part of their educational experience” (p. 7).

On the basis of Kretchmar’s (2006) argument, it seems delight is a worthwhile objective, however, in our recent review of 50 research articles on meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport, we found it difficult to identify instances where researchers or teachers specifically aimed at fostering delight or where students identified it. Delight appears to be an objective that is undervalued or perhaps not fully understood.  While fun is common and ordinary, delight is a rare and elusive, yet memorable, experience that often takes the movement participant by surprise (Kretchmar, 2005). We might think of delight being captured in a “runner’s high” or when time seems to stop during participation. In our research team discussions we mentioned how things like a long and sustained rally in net/wall games, perfect synchronicity in dancing or those rare days when you can consistently hit a golf ball long and straight (maybe very rare!) might also represent what Kretchmar means by delight. Although we cannot, “summon delight directly, we can lay the groundwork and otherwise prepare ourselves for it,” (Kretchmar, 2005, p. 204).  And so perhaps the question that remains is how?  How does the physical education teacher lay the groundwork for delight?

This is a question we aim to answer through a number of LAMPE projects as we strive to identify pedagogies by which physical education teachers may foster meaningful experiences for students, as well as pedagogies to be used by physical education teacher educators in training prospective physical education teachers to teach toward meaning.  In our next post, guest blogger Dr. Doug Gleddie from the University of Alberta will provide some new insights into ways to think about delight in physical education and sport pedagogy practice.

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