Equitable Learning Experiences in Physical Education Classes

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  • 0:04 Understanding Equity
  • 0:46 Considering Race,…
  • 2:29 Considering Abilities
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Ensuring equity in education is important to teachers and policymakers. This lesson discusses what it means to think about equitable learning experiences, specifically in the context of physical education classes.

Understanding Equity

Betsy is a PE teacher at a diverse elementary school in the city where she grew up. During the last few years, Betsy has been thinking a lot about what she can do to make her classes more equitable, or equally accessible and meaningful to all students.

At a recent professional development workshop, Betsy started understanding that equity isn't the same as sameness. In other words, it's all right to give students different PE experiences based on their backgrounds and needs if it means helping them all achieve the same overall goals and outcomes.

Betsy knows that it's one thing to use equity as a buzzword, but it's another more complex and meaningful thing to construct a truly equitable PE class.

Considering Race, Class & Gender

First, Betsy starts thinking about the ways race, socioeconomic class, and gender influence students' experiences in PE, and how she can make her class more equitable for students from diverse backgrounds.

Betsy knows that some racial stereotypes include the idea that people from some racial backgrounds are better suited to certain sports than others. For instance, African Americans might be expected to excel at basketball but be poor tennis players.

Betsy articulates these racial stereotypes for her students and helps them think about how these stereotypes come into being and how they impact student experiences in PE classes. Her students are thus better able to critique stereotypes and build their individual athletic talents and abilities while dismantling preconceived notions about what they can and cannot do because of their race.

Socioeconomic status can also be an important place for Betsy to think about equity. She knows that students from richer backgrounds often have had more experience with certain sports and games. She ensures that she explicitly instructs her students in how to use tools like a climbing wall or a racket, without assuming they have had prior exposure to these tools.

Betsy also makes it clear that she will not tolerate teasing of any student because of what he or she has or has not experienced in the past athletically, because of the fanciness of shoes, or the newness of clothing.

Gender has played an important part in equity issues in PE classes for as long as Betsy can remember. As a female PE teacher, she knows she is a good model of everything girls and women can achieve athletically. When she sees that girls are hesitant about participation, she gives them extra coaching and advice to show that she believes in their potential.

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