Transformational Learning for Community Health: The Case of Physical Education Teacher Candidates

Transformational Learning for Community Health: The Case of Physical Education Teacher Candidates

Carlos E. Quiñones-Padovani (The University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, Puerto Rico) and Clarena Larrotta (Texas State University – San Marcos, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6260-5.ch010
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Abstract

The qualitative research study explored in this chapter took place in a physical education teacher education program at a large public university in Puerto Rico. Study findings are relevant for similar programs in the United States. The research questions guiding the chapter are: (1) What can physical education teacher candidates do to help promote community health awareness? (2) What does transformational learning look like for physical education teacher candidates in a physical education teacher education program? (3) From the point of view of the university instructor, what are the challenges training physical education teacher candidates to promote health awareness? Data collection sources include: The researcher's journal, informal conversations with physical education teacher education university colleagues from different institutions, alumni questionnaire responses, electronic communications with 11 physical education teacher education program graduates, and documents (e.g., the National Association for Sports and Physical Education Standards, and the Physical Education Teacher Education Standards). The authors draw on transformational learning theory as a framework to inform the study, and narrative analysis plays a central role reporting study findings. The chapter includes the following sections: a theoretical framework section discussing how transformational learning theory informs the study; a relevant literature section that provides the definition, benefits, and connection with concepts such as physical activity, community health, and effective teaching in physical education; a qualitative methodology section that describes the study setting and participants; data collection sources and data analysis procedures; a study findings section that is organized by research questions; an implications for practice section; and conclusion.
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Introduction

The students are like a mirror reflecting what we as instructors teach them; when you teach a negative behavior their response will also be negative; when you teach a positive behavior the students’ response will be positive. The physical education instructor needs to promote a positive attitude and respect when communicating with the students.

This introductory vignette was provided by Sandra (pseudonym) who is currently a graduate student in kinesiology. Her comment is meaningful to the scope of the chapter on what physical education teachers in general and physical education teacher candidates in particular can do to promote community health awareness. It is a truism that obesity epidemic is a huge problem we are facing today. Unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, and excessive sedentary behavior are some of the factors contributing to this epidemic problem (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011a). There are numerous professionals working in different fields studying this phenomenon and working towards a solution. The physical education (PE) teacher has the potential to be one of the professionals contributing to finding the solution for this problem. Furthermore, “quality programs in physical education contribute to valuing and adopting a physically active lifestyle” (Graham, Holt/Hale, & Parker, 2010, p. 5). However, PE programs in schools have not been effective throughout the years (Trost, 2006). There has been a consistent failure of PE classes meeting public health objectives related to the quality and quantity of engagement in physical activity. In addition, the emphasis on competitive team sports during PE class rather than individualized lifetime physical activities for the students has aggravated this problem (Trost, 2006). We, the chapter authors, believe that effective PE teacher candidates can help promote community health awareness and dispel the myths associated with PE through the work they do in schools. This is why PE teacher candidates need to go through a transformational learning process during their residence at any physical education teacher education program.

This chapter reports findings of a qualitative research study in a physical education teacher education program at a large public university in Puerto Rico relevant for similar programs in the United States. The research questions guiding the chapter include: What can physical education teacher candidates do to help promote community health awareness? What does transformational learning look like for physical education teacher candidates in a physical education teacher education program? From the point of view of the university instructor, what are the challenges training physical education teacher candidates to promote health awareness? In order to provide answers to these questions we gathered data through the researcher’s journal, informal conversations with physical education teacher education colleagues at different institutions, alumni questionnaire and follow up electronic communications with 11 physical education teacher education program graduates, and documents (e.g., National Association for Sports and Physical Education Standards, and the Physical Education Teacher Education Standards). For this chapter we draw on transformational learning theory as a framework for data collection and analysis. The chapter includes the following sections: A theoretical framework section discussing how transformational learning theory informs the study, a relevant literature section that provides the definition, benefits, and connection with concepts such as physical activity, community health, and effective teaching in PE, a qualitative methodology section that describes the study setting and participants, data collection sources, and data analysis procedures, a study findings section that is organized by research question, an implications for practice section, and conclusion.

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Theoretical Framework

In order to explore answers to the chapter questions, we situate the study in a theoretical framework that views learning as shaped by transformational learning theory (Mezirow, 1997). Mezirow explains that transformative learning is the process of affecting change in a frame of reference. Specifically, Mezirow (1997) states that Frames of reference are the structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences. They selectively shape and delimit expectations, perceptions, cognition, and feelings. They set our ‘line of action’ (p. 5). This framework informs our beliefs that:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Physical Activity: Any movement performed by muscles that results in burning calories (or using energy).

Frame Of Reference: The structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences ( Mezirow, 1997 ).

Transformative Learning: The process of affecting change in a frame of reference. Learning to make interpretations from the person’s own beliefs, judgments and feelings and consciously define the meaning of the experience ( Mezirow, 1997 ).

Public Health: The science of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention (Association of Schools of Public Health).

Obesity: Having excessive amounts of fat in the body that results in health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Community Health: A field of public health, is a discipline which concerns itself with the study and improvement of the health characteristics of biological communities (Marcus, 1992 AU22: The in-text citation "Marcus, 1992" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

PE Teacher Candidate: Student that is actively enrolled in the physical education teacher education program.

Effective Teacher: A physical education teacher who engages in reflection, asks questions about how, why, and what they are doing in their classes; engages in planning, assessing, and teaching in a cyclical manner and knows the content of what is being taught and how to teach such content.

PE Teacher: A professional that teaches physical education classes in public or private schools.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Synergy between subject matter and effective teaching techniques to stimulate student learning ( Shulman, 1987 ).

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