Fysisk aktivitet i skolen, fra kunnskap til praksis: Muligheter og utfordringer ved å implementere fysisk aktiv læring som didaktisk verktøy i skolen
The premise for this thesis is that although we have reliable knowledge about what constitutes effective practice for increased physical activity in schools, we lack knowledge of how to implement this in practice. Combining physical activity with academic content, so called physically active lessons (PAL), is an approach to teaching that was developed to promote children’s health, academic learning and psychosocial wellbeing. This thesis highlights possibilities and challenges in implementing PAL in Norwegian schools. The different phases of implementation and the relationships between them were studied to improve our understanding of the factors that affect the implementation process. The main goal was to provide specific recommendations and strategies for sustainable implementation of PAL in schools.
This dissertation is part of the “Active School” project which started in 2013 as a joint project between the University of Stavanger and the municipality of Stavanger. The aim then was from a public health perspective, to develop a model for increasing physical activity in schools. Over the course of the school year 2014/2015 an intervention study was conducted, with PAL as the key intervention element. The current thesis consists of four studies. Each contribute to an improved understanding of the complex processes of change that schools must undergo when implementing PAL. Data were collected through qualitative interviews with teachers, school leaders and pupils.
The first study contributes to an improved understanding of the challenges tied to implementing PAL when the implementation strategy is mainly focused on research. It shows that inadequate training, lack of headteachers` support and insufficient time for planning and preparing the framework of the lessons were challenging barriers to overcome. The positive reception of PAL by pupils, as well as external support, have to a certain degree compensated for lacking involvement by school leadership. These are also the likely reasons for the high degree of implementation (fidelity). The results of the study point to the need for more thorough planning and system development in the implementation process.
The results from the second study show that two years after the implementation phase some teachers had discontinued their use of PAL. Most, however, had built PAL into their routine practice but had halved its use to about once a week; the main reason for this was the belief that PAL was less suited to teaching new subject matter than traditional classroom instruction. Headteachers had exercised little or no active leadership in this continuation phase, choosing instead to focus on other learning processes for basic skills in maths, reading and writing. Thus, if PAL is to continue to be a part of a school´s practice, then both the headteacher’s knowledge of the educational/teaching value of PAL and the teachers’ competency in combining physical activity with subject teaching will be of great importance.
The third study shows that headteachers play a decisive role in whether or not PAL, as a teaching method, is given priority. A lack of knowledge about PAL´s strengths, together with poor follow-up capacity and general “change fatigue” among teachers, were important reasons for giving PAL low priority. The results indicate that PAL is more likely to be adopted in schools where the programme meets an already clearly defined goal or improvement area. Furthermore, schools with a higher capacity for change are more likely to consider the benefits of implementing a new programme such as PAL.
The fourth study shows that an implementation strategy which focuses on stimulating teachers´ competency in combining physical activity with academic content is likely to have contributed to developing a sense of ownership to the inherent principles in PAL. Experiencing the advantages that PAL had over traditional classroom instruction inclined teachers to continue developing and renewing the relevant activities over time. Both external support and the exchange of experiences and reflection, between colleagues, have been important for teachers to development their competency. At the same time the results appear to indicate that for a whole school to adopt PAL represents a challenge.
The overall findings show that the children’s appreciation of PAL motivated in turn the teachers to use it. What the children enjoyed about PAL was having a more varied school day, the social interaction it brought with it and, for most of them, the physical activity in itself. Schools’ goals, as they appear in national curriculums and political guidelines, include emphasis on caring, personal growth and the building of interpersonal relationships. This study shows, however, that schools tend to concentrate mainly on academic achievement. Since PAL was developed to promote pupils´ learning, health and wellbeing, it seems a paradox that schools’ expectations regarding learning may hamper sustainable implementation of PAL.
Sustainable implementation requires a planned systematic process. Furthermore, a school’s leadership needs to underline the importance and relevance of PAL and to steward the relevant processes. The necessary training given to teachers should have as its goal that they develop a sense of ownership to the educational principles behind PAL. Teachers’ competency in implementing PAL can further be stimulated by the sharing of experiences and reflections concerning their pedagogical practice. External partners with competency in PAL and its implementation can help to facilitate the use of this approach to teaching and learning