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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

A Physical Education Specialist teaches educational courses related to the human body, commonly taken in primary and secondary school settings, that encourage psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting to promote health. A Physical Education Specialist has the unique opportunity to involve school-aged children in movement experience that can promote skill literacy and lifelong active living habits.


Physical Education Specialist

Physical Education Specialists are teachers that provide Physical Education course that promote skill literacy and lifelong active living habits. To become a Physical Education Specialist an individual must have completed a degree in Physical Education or a university specialization in Physical Education, or have taken certified additional qualification courses. [1] It is important to make a distinction between Physical Education Specialists and Physical Education teachers. Physical Education Specialists are trained to deliver Physical Education programs and to implement Physical Education policy. This differs from Physical Education teachers who deliver Physical Education predominantly to elementary schools and have no training or qualifications to carry out Physical Education and to implement and meet Physical Education policy goals. [2]

Roles and Responsibilities


One of the responsibilities of the Physical Education Specialist is to provide the student with the skills and abilities to meet the amount of physical activity they in both the short term and the long term. Physical Education Specialists will often teach skills that will help students participate more in physical activities outside of class. One of the barriers for children from participating in physical activities outside of class is their perceived lack of skill and their fear of an embarrassing performance. It is for these reasons that Physical Education Specialists will teach students the skills they need to participate in games like tag, jump rope or soccer. Not only will the students have the ability to participate in these activities outside of the classroom, they will also have the confidence to assert themselves and join in. [3] In addition to providing the skills to participate in activities outside of the classroom, Physical Education Specialist also introduce and teach new games and activities that can be played easily outside of the classroom. The inclusion of games that they can play with small groups and with their friends will make it more likely that the students participate in physical activity during recess and outside of school hours on their own. [3]


Physical Education Specialists employ can employ several different techniques to encourage students to partake in Physical Education, both at home and at school. Physical Education Specialists will often promote community activities that the student can be a part of. These activities, such as recreational sports, dance and martial arts can be promoted through assets that are easily available at the school (brochures, bulleting boards and school announcements). [3] Additionally, Physical Education Specialists can encourage physical activities through the use of positive emotional reinforcement and praise. Taking interest in a student’s physical activity and the games they play can help students feel the value in the activities they are carrying out. Furthermore, receiving praise from a role model for something that is traditionally praised will help the child repeat the activity. [3] Physical Education Specialists will often lead by example to promote physical activities. By explaining and relating the physical activities that they like to do to keep fit and healthy Physical Education Specialists can encourage young children to follow their example while setting lifelong physical activity habits. [3]

Extracurricular Leadership

Physical Education Specialists are responsible for physical activity and health not only in the gymnasium, but also in the entire school. Physical Education Specialists should take on the role of the physical activity advocate and push for a greater focus on Physical Education in the school through a number of ways. [3] Physical Education Specialists should make themselves available to other teachers as a Physical Education resource. Physical Education Specialists should encourage teachers to incorporate small levels of physical activity into their day to day classes while also providing instructions on appropriate activities. Physical Education Specialists are also responsible for training and educating teachers on the importance of Physical Education goals and how they can be met to foster an active school. [3] Finally, Physical Education Specialists are responsible for planning and executing school wide physical activity events and experiences. These can include things like school runs and walks and fund raisers that make use of physical activities. Physical Education Specialists are also responsible for planning and running before and after school sporting activities like dance, gymnastics and intramural sports. [3]


Physical Literacy

“Certified Physical Education Specialists provide more physical education and higher quality physical education than classroom teachers”. [4] In elementary schools Physical Education curriculum calls for children to learn age-appropriate fundamental motor movements and skills that will act as a foundation for long-term sport and physical activity involvement. [5] An Ontario study saw no significant difference between Physical Education Specialists and general teacher led Physical Education when considering: the number of classes offered, amount of time dedicated to Physical Education, or the level of vigorous activity offered to students per week. [2] However, another study observed that in Physical Education Specialist led classes students spent almost 20% more of the allotted Physical Education time being physically active than in non-specialist led classes. [6] While the level of vigorous activity may not differ greatly, it is very common for non-specialist teachers to begin with a warm up of running laps followed by competitive team based activities, while specialists engage children through developing a “lifelong love of physical activity” through activities focused on balance, co-ordination, body awareness, fundamental motor skills, playing and challenging each student individually during competitive games. [7] By incorporating fun and play into physical activity they are able to capture the interest of children who do not appear to be athletic or competitive. “Play has [] been shown to foster and improve: motor function, creativity, decision-making, problem-solving, executive functions [], social skills [], and speech” [8] in young children. An American study concluded that non-specialist Physical Education teachers seemed to understand the importance of Physical Education but, overall, were unable to or lacked the knowledge to implement behaviors that matched their personal beliefs. The study found a positive correlation between the specific training of Physical Education specialists and untrained non-specialists on actual functions of the delivered programming. They concluded that “[properly implemented physical education] has been shown to have an impact on fitness levels, motor skill development, and lifelong physical activity.” [9]

School Sports Programs

Studies have shown that not only do Physical Education Specialists improve the quantity and quality of Physical Education they also provide it in a more confident and accessible manner. Through the manner in which Physical Education specialists implement and execute programming they have shown to produce more enjoyable atmospheres for students, which can go a long way towards achieving the health and learning goals. Schools that employ Physical Education Specialists have shown to have a higher participation rates in intramural sports and activities, though the level of inter-school sports participation is not shown to change. This distinction may be due to the ability of the of the Physical Education Specialist to foster and create an atmosphere of an “active school” through the use of extra resources, educations and better training. [2]

Active Living Education

While many short-term studies have found little consistent evidence that specialized teachers enable children to be healthier and increase healthy lifelong habits more so than generalized classroom teachers. However a longitudinal Australian study has shown that 3 years after 4 years of specialized Physical Education there are significant health differences when compared to the children that received non specialized Physical Education for the same amount of time. The study claims that “specialized teaching, combined with a focus on lasting activity patterns rather than immediate fitness benefits, produced measurable gains in health and academic performance that emerged after several years”. Only two years into the study they reported that the children in the Physical Education Specialist led classes “had lower body-fat percentage and LDL cholesterol, and better scores on standardized numeracy and literacy tests.” [10] Additionally, along with Physical Education, certain provinces are introducing required health education, which could educate children in the Canadian school systems about the importance healthy lifestyles. [11]


Even if Physical Health Specialists are equipped with the proper knowledge and practical skills to implement a successful and effective program, if they are faced with too many challenges and barriers they may not be able to deliver a quality program. Children partaking in lower quality programs may not be able benefit from the instruction of a Physical Education Specialist as children in a higher quality program. Policy makers should do their utmost to provide adequate support to enable Physical Education Specialists to overcome potential barriers.

Funding, Facilities, and Equipment

Schools throughout Canada face serious problems when it comes to funding for both Physical Education Specialists themselves and the resources they need to carry out their duties. The 2011 People for Education Annual Report found that urban Ontario schools with higher enrolment had higher number of Physical Education Specialists carrying out their programming than schools in Northern Ontario did. The report showed that urban schools had higher student populations as thus more funding for specialist instructors compared to smaller more rural schools. [1] Furthermore, it was shown that 43% of Canadian schools hold students and parents responsible for the costs of equipment that is outside regularly scheduled Physical Education classes. A lack of resources and staff will often result in students standing and waiting around for activities to start in their already limited Physical Education time. [12]


Physical Education Specialists are often faced with a lack of time to implement their programming throughout Canada. Ontario in particular faces administrative barriers to have sufficient time for Physical Education, the province only requires 20 minutes of Physical Education a day until the end of grade eight. This amount of time falls well short of the required Physical Education time throughout the rest of Canada. B.C. and Quebec both require 30 minutes of activity a day up until the end of high school. [1]


Physical Education for a long time has been perceived as lower priority by school administration and government. This perception of Physical Education as low priority is especially dominant when it is contrasted with other more academic subjects like math and reading and writing that has more clear and easily accessible performance measurements. [2]



There are no federal or provincial policies to hire Physical Education Specialists for physical education instruction. Approximately one-third of all schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., & the Territories did not have such a policy in place. [12] Quebec is the only province to require Physical Education Specialists to instruct Physical Education classes throughout all levels of schooling, primary, secondary, and CEGEP. Both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick estimate that between 90-100% of their Physical Education classes are instructed by a Physical Education Specialist with the goal of making it 100%. Some provinces such as BC and Manitoba have employed Health and Physical Education Consultants to act as a resource for non-specialist Physical Education teachers to compensate for low levels of instruction from Physical Education Specialists. [11] It is also a national trend that “elementary schools are less likely than secondary schools to have policies to hire qualified personnel” [12] which could be detrimental to the early formation of active & healthy living habits and the development of fundamental motor skills. In order to ensure adequate Physical Education Canadian education policy makers should set goals of nationwide 100% Physical Education Specialist instructed Physical Education Classes.


In Canada each province and territory is responsible for dictating the requirements and curriculum. According to Physical Health & Education Canada the “national standard” is 150 minutes a week of allocated Physical Education time. However, “The proportion of students who get the recommended 150 minutes of PE per week ranges from 15–65% across school grades.” [8] In addition to the Physical Education curriculum, some provinces such as Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia have introduced Health Education to their curriculum as well. [11] Additional health education could help raise awareness of the importance of healthy, active living for children and nationwide implementation should be seriously considered.

Considerations for Future Policy Makers

Are Physical Education Specialists Important?

  • Physical Education Specialists provide higher quality Physical Education than non-specialist Physical Education teachers. [4]
  • The quality of the Physical Education children receive effects their long-term health and lifestyle habits. [10]
  • Children who receive quality Physical Education score higher in certain academic fields. [10]

How Can We Enable And Support Our Physical Education Specialists?

  • Provide Physical Education Specialists with adequate funding and appropriate facilities and equipment
  • Increase the amount of time devoted to Physical Education in schools
  • Acknowledge the importance of Physical Education as valuable and necessary, even in academic contexts.
  • Create employment policies to increase the numbers of students being taught by Physical Education Specialists, especially at the primary levels.