Congruence of practice in Alabama schools with national and state policy texts for physical education
Case study work on the occupational socialization of physical education teachers in Alabama suggests a major incongruence between official, policy-described physical education and actual practice. To counter the negative effects of occupational socialization, Curtner-Smith (2009) suggested that sport pedagogists follow the lead of Evans and Penney in the United Kingdom (e.g., Penney, 2008) and Rink and associates in the United States (e.g., Rink & Mitchell, 2002) taking more of an activist approach in their work by engaging in research with a political/policy focus. The purposes of this study were to (a) describe what was occurring in the name of physical education in the state of Alabama and (b) illustrate discrepancies between teachers' practice and national and state policy texts. Two hundred forty-eight physical education teachers (137 elementary, 74 middle school, and 37 high school teachers) completed the Physical Education in Alabama Survey (PEAS), a 20-item instrument designed to obtain demographic and programmatic information about physical education teachers and teaching in Alabama. Frequency counts were made and percentages calculated for forced-choice answer questions on the PEAS. Analytic induction was used to code and categorize data generated by open-ended questions. Frequency counts were then made and percentages calculated for each inductive category. Key findings were that physical education programs in Alabama were often congruent with national and state policy in terms of teachers' role emphasis, stated goals and objectives, and assessment techniques when formal evaluation was carried out. Time allocated for the subject was also equal to or exceeded national and state minimums at the elementary and middle school levels. Conversely, areas of non-compliance or which often contradicted national and state policy texts were formal grading criteria, the allocation of time for pupils to engage in "free play," and content. A concerning number of teachers were not certified to teach physical education or conduct formal evaluations. Class sizes were much larger than suggested or required at many elementary and middle schools. Major implications included the need for improved physical education teacher education, state enforcement of its own existing policy, and state provision of more rigorous guidelines regarding content and curriculum models.