Preservice secondary subject teachers incorporating movement integration into classroom practice

August, 2020

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education. 2020, Vol. 94

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study is to explore Finnish pre-service teachers (PSTs)’ perspectives and experiences related to the use of movement integration (MI) in academic classrooms.


Setting and participants
The authors conducted this study at a Finnish university that requires all PSTs to complete a five-credit pedagogical course as part of their pedagogical studies during their last semester before graduation. In the spring of 2018, as part of this required course, 28 female and 16 male PSTs (aged around 24 years old) participated in an integrated approach known as learning by moving (LbM).
The goal with this part was to introduce physical activity promotion through MI.
In this study, a 17-week (semester-long) program began with a 3-week university-based period that included studies of pedagogical and didactic content.
This was followed by 5 weeks of student teaching in secondary classrooms at the university’s laboratory school.
The PSTs then engaged in 3 additional weeks of pedagogical and didactic studies at the university, followed by 5 more weeks of student teaching and 1 final week at the university.

Data collection
The authors adopted a qualitative approach so that they could explore in detail the PSTs’ understanding and experiences related to the implementation of MI in secondary academic classrooms.
They collected data from the focus-group discussions, individual semi-structured interviews, and workshop activities at the end of the academic semester; they conducted the classroom observations of MI instruction and held informal discussions throughout the project. Focus groups create an opportunity for participants to engage in thoughtful conversations about the topics of interest.

Findings and discussion
This study’s results add new knowledge to the existing literature, as past researchers have mainly focused on primary teachers’ implementation of MI.
The PSTs who participated in this study provided their insights about the use of MI during the final year of their teacher education studies.
It is essential to understand MI from the PSTs’ perspectives, as they are significant stakeholders who will be in a position to implement MI in their careers.

Movement integration by preservice subject teachers
Although previous researchers have indicated that experiences and attitudes towards additional physical activity are less positive for secondary teachers than for primary teachers (Kamppi et al., € 2013), the authors showed that PSTs can adopt and incorporate MI during student teaching in secondary academic classrooms.
Over the course of the semester, the PSTs’ perceptions of using MI in the classroom improved, and their confidence and competence in implementing MI increased; in the end, they had positive attitudes towards MI.
Their authentic and active learning opportunities were central in building their competence and confidence in delivering MI lessons within secondary classrooms (Quarmby et al., 2018; Stewart et al., 2019).
In this study, all the participating PSTs incorporated at least two MI activities during their student teaching; this result challenges the findings from previous studies, which imply that, compared to recommended levels, teachers use MI less frequently and for shorter lengths or else with modifications (Quarmby et al., 2018; Webster, Russ et al., 2015).
This finding could be attributed to the design of the course in this study, as it included a compulsory MI teaching component during a few lessons; however, the PSTs were not forced to extend beyond their comfort zones.
The PSTs incorporated MI strategies into their academic classrooms using a wide variety of activities.
This indicates that the PSTs in this study had a low threshold and perceived MI as easy and straightforward to integrate into their teaching an academic subject at the secondary level.
The PSTs’ experience of MI as simple, fun, and inspirational is related to the positive response that they received when applying MI with their secondary students.
One factor that may have contributed to this positive feeling is the effect of collegiality the PSTs experienced when planning and reflecting across subject boundaries in small groups.
The PSTs in this study experienced time and space constraints, which participants in other studies have also identified as primary concerns (Carlson et al., 2017; Dyrstad et al., 2018; Martin & Murtagh, 2017a; Quarmby et al., 2018).
The problems due to lack of time for MI are especially related to the similar issues they expressed related to their own student-teaching lessons and the interdisciplinary tutoring groups’ reflection meetings.
Several PSTs also noted physical and logistical limitations related to the size of the teaching group.
The PSTs mentioned that it was necessary to have personal courage when applying MI, as they had to handle a certain amount of chaos in the classroom.
The PSTs’ focus was primarily on the didactic challenge of instructing, facilitating, and motivating transitions in from one phase to another in this case, the transitions to and from MI, as that is a physically and emotionally activating element (Hivner et al., 2019; Webster et al., 2017).
The materials and ideas that the PSTs shared and discussed in the tutor groups were central to their learning processes.
In addition, the PSTs pointed out that the existing material was mainly related to primary education.
Therefore, appropriate teaching and support materials for the use of MI in secondary education is called for; teacher educators, teachers, and textbook writers all need to address this gap.
This study’s findings extend the research on the positive effects of MI on primary students to also include secondary students.
The potential cognitive, social, and academic benefits of MI could facilitate its implementation in secondary classrooms, as PSTs can see the positive effects that this method has on their students’ outcomes.
This paper offers an important contribution to the existing literature because its results demonstrate that physical education teachers are prepared to take on an expanded role by promoting physical activity in their schools.
Leading scholars have pointed out that physical education teachers should also act as physical activity leaders who play a fundamental role in their schools’ physical activity approaches, including MI, by organizing programmes and supporting and preparing other teachers (McMullen et al., 2016; Webster, Beets et al., 2015).
To ensure that physical education teachers can take on expanded roles, teacher education programmes are needed to prepare preservice teachers adequately by providing them with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and experiences (Chen & Gu, 2018).
Constructivist learning theory is this study’s theoretical framework; it provided structured guidelines for pedagogical courses in teacher education (Beck & Kosnik, 2006; Rovegno & Dolly, 2006).
Therefore, the PSTs were central agents in the active-learning process.
The small interdisciplinary groups (five to six PSTs and one PST peer tutor) were essential to the processes of shared learning and critical reflection.
The tutors’ dual role as peer PSTs and MI subject experts was of central importance because, in constructivist endeavours, according to Fosnot and Perry (2005), the learners are in the centre and are involved in the learning community.
Therefore, in this study, following what Hivner et al. (2019) suggested, the authors gave the PSTs sufficient time to discuss their experiences of implementing MI.
The conditions and opportunities for learner ownership occurred in social, collegial, and subject-integrated interactions.
The results regarding the application of MI in the LbM programme show the possibilities of creating new collaborative learning paths in subject teachers’ education.
The PSTs focused on subject-specific didactic theory and practiced MI with a perhaps somewhat unexpected collaboration across subject boundaries.
The subject-integrated knowledge, skills, and competencies in this study can be described as a providing a didactic opportunity within a normally sedentary professional culture.
This presents a healthy challenge for all involved in education, including PSTs, tutors, teacher educators, practice supervisors, and secondary students.

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Updated: Oct. 23, 2020