Student-Centered Physical Education Programs

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  • 0:04 What is…
  • 1:17 Student-Centered…
  • 2:13 Benefits
  • 3:31 Issues
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kathryn Lawson

Kathryn has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master's degree in criminal justice. She has experience with college instruction and staff training.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the concept of student-centered learning and how it applies to physical education. You'll also learn about the goals of, and potential issues with, this approach.

What is Student-Centered Learning?

Marcus is an instructor in a traditional, teacher-centered classroom. His students sit in rows of desks facing him, and he lectures throughout much of the class period. The class moves forward to cover new material when Marcus presents it to them. Marcus decides what subjects will be covered and in what depth, regardless of the interests and abilities of individual students.

In contrast, Tamara works in a student-centered classroom. Her students have their desks arranged in a circle, and they frequently participate in class discussions and group projects. Students tailor their learning experiences to their unique needs. They choose assignments and topics that will optimize their learning.

As the term implies, student-centered learning is learning in which students take an active role in their own education. They are allowed to make choices about assignments and activities to further their individual educational goals, taking into account their needs, strengths, and interests.

Rather than having classes in which the entire group moves forward together, student-centered learning allows students to pursue additional learning objectives when they are ready. Student-centered learning is a more collaborative, interactive process than traditional methods of instruction.

What does this mean in a physical education setting?

Student-Centered Learning in PE

To use student-centered learning in physical education, instructors may allow students to pick among various activities. They may also allow students to select from among various levels of competition in those activities, so that each student is optimally challenged and engaged.

For example, Melyssa has been playing soccer since she was very young. She loves the sport and plays in a community league. She signs up for competitive soccer in order to further hone her skills.

Xi has never tried baseball before, but is interested in it. He signs up to play noncompetitively so that he can explore the game without a strong investment in winning or losing.

Student-centered physical education can allow for the freedom to develop a physical activity plan that is responsive to each student's unique needs, interests, and abilities. This can be especially useful to ensure inclusion for overweight or obese students, who may be left out or avoidant if teachers dictate a prescribed set of exercises.


So why use student-centered learning in PE? Well, considerable research shows the advantages of student-centered learning in both physical education and scholastic instruction.

One, it increases student decision-making power and ownership of outcomes, both of which are essential to promoting lasting behavior habits and achievements. In order to maintain long-term health, students will need to remain physically active throughout their lifetimes.

In addition, self-monitoring is an important component of long-term health maintenance through physical activity. In student-centered learning, students are practicing this essential skill by keeping an individual fitness tracker, logging miles walked or steps taken, or otherwise observing and recording their progress and activities.

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