The development of an undergraduate degree physical education degree program in el salvador and its role in the prevention of youth violence
El Salvador presents an unfortunate history that includes a military regime and a civil war that together created a legacy of violence in which the country still struggle nowadays. Salud Escolar Integral (SEI) was created in 2005 to combat youth violence throughout the re-formulation of physical education (PE) classes in public schools, promoting life skills learning that supports the resolution of conflicts. In 2007, SEI supported the creation of a physical education teacher education (PETE) degree at the Universidad Pedagógica de El Salvador (UPES), having the goal to assist pre-service teachers with a better understanding of humanistic principles. The research analyzed if after attending all three years of UPES PETE program, students presented high self-perception levels of competence and confidence related to attitude, skills and knowledge to teach PE within humanistic teaching principles. Taking Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) was the theoretical framework used to analyze the development of these humanistic teaching principles known as themes in TPSR. The study used interviews to analyze the perception of ten students. In conclusion, although it is suggested that UPES should provide better support for the development of two themes: empowering students and transfer learning, significant engagement towards humanistic principles were reported.
“Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else can. It speaks to people in a language they understand”. (Nelson Mandela cited in United Nations Final report IYSPE, 2005, p. 90).
Located between Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador is the smallest continental country of Central America. In spite of its small territory, El Salvador is highly populated with almost seven million inhabitants. The violent civil war from 1980 to 1992, led to the death of over 70,000 people. This recent history has created a culture of violence and conflict that still persists (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). El Salvador is a country looking for ways to deal with its number one public health issue: youth violence. Within El Salvador, 32% of adolescents report having engaged in a physical fight while 20% have been threatened with a weapon (Springer, Selwyn & Kelder, 2006). Homicide amongst youth is one of the leading causes of death for adolescents in El Salvador (World Health Organization, 2002). Health care costs alone attributed to violence account for 4.3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (World Health Organization, 2004).
In order to address this national problem, quality education programs have been identified as one of the best development investments with which to reduce violence due to its link to strengthened human capacity that supports development across all sectors (United Nations Secretary General, 2006). Hence, the Salvadoran government identified Education as one critical sector to address the problem of youth violence. In 2005, the Ministry of Education launched a 16 year national plan to modernize the educational system (Plan Nacional de Educación 2021). The national educational plan also states that the country has learned how choosing violent ways to solve their problems have only promoted destruction and poverty. Therefore, the national plan should seek for ways to unite the country through more humanistic values in its constitutional principles.
Physical Education can be an ideal place for children to learn critical life skills such as interpersonal skills, problem solving and decision making skills, and personal skills through such humanistic approaches (Hellison, 1973, 2003). These life skills enable youth to deal with conflict more peacefully (Coakley, 2002; Ewing, Gano-Overway, Branta, Seefeldt, 2002). However, in El Salvador, several barriers exist which are prohibitive for physical education to have a positive impact upon violence prevention. Within El Salvador, there are 5000 schools but only approximately 750 physical education teachers. This is a direct result of the closing of the Physical Education training school in 1979 due to the outbreak of the civil war. This has resulted in a 25 year gap of professional development and training opportunities for physical education teachers across El Salvador.
To address this gap, the Salud Escolar Integral (SEI) program emerged in El Salvador in 2005 as a new approach to combat violence among children and youth. SEI seeks to re-formulate the role of physical education (PE) in public schools, promoting life skills development that may support the resolution of conflicts with non-violent ways (Mandigo et al, 2008). SEI actions include workshops and conferences, supporting organizations that may promote SEI’s values and curriculum development for Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programs.
One of the main activities of SEI has been to support the Education Faculty at the Universidad Pedagógica de El Salvador (UPES) to develop the physical education teacher degree (Profesorado en Educación Física y Deportes para Educación Básica y Educación Média) that started to be offered in 2007. Within SEI principles, future PE teachers are trained to promote not only physical health but also skills and knowledge that may help children to develop a more peaceful attitude (Universidad Pedagógica de El Salvador, 2009). Developing university degree programs that prepare competent and confident physical education teachers is vital for educational reform to occur within schools and a key strategy to support national development efforts to reduce youth violence (Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group, 2008).
Although SEI seeks for a more peaceful community, this new program has no substantial data showing its effectiveness as it relates to fostering effective pedagogical techniques that can help in the prevention of youth violence through physical education. Therefore, the Taking Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) within Physical Education was chosen as an appropriate theoretical framework for this study given it’s close links to more humanistic approaches to fostering life skills that are necessary to deal with conflict in a more peaceful manner (Hellison, 1973; Hellison, 2003). Since its creation, the model presented goals that related life skills learning with the improvement of interpersonal relationships. It has been more than thirty years since the model first emerged and its acceptance has been growing among many countries (Martinek, 2008).
This study examined whether the physical education students who were part of the SEI program at UPES developed competence and confidence related to attitude, skills and knowledge to teach PE within TPSR’s humanistic teaching principles. Within a qualitative methodology design, the study interviewed UPES students at the end of their program. This group represented the first cohort to graduate with a physical education degree from UPES. Considering that the majority of PE teachers in El Salvador are currently graduating from the UPES PETE program, an analysis of students’ TPSR humanistic learning is important to understand the potentialities and limitations that may affect current PE in schools of El Salvador.
Theoretical Framework of Study
Hellion’s Taking Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) was used as the study’s theoretical framework to analyze the development of a humanistic PE. Hellison (1973) presented one of the first approaches that related PE and life skills development, entitled Humanistic Physical Education. The model presented five major principles: i) everybody must actualize their own potentiality as a major goal; ii) each individual is unique; iii) individuals must be selective with the values of society in which they follow; iv) how a person feels is more important than what he knows; and, iv) no one is better able than the person himself to determine how he learn best. From 1973 until the present moment, Hellison and many other scholars have been working on the development of the model and its effectiveness (Hellison & Walsh, 2002). More recently, this same model is known as the TPSR model (Hellison, 2003). The model intends to shift the dominant idea of ‘education of the physical’ to the ‘education through the physical’ (Hellison & Martinek, 2006).
Since1978, the model presented four major goals. Each goal has grown in complexity as the model became older. Two of them focus on the development of personal responsibility (self-motivation and self-direction), other two focuses on social responsibility (respect and caring for others). A fifth goal of transferring learning to other environments was added to the model in its latest version in 2003. The goals of TPSR set the objectives that each student should achieve in order to consider the implementation of the model successful.
Besides goals, TPSR also presents pedagogical themes, which are the fundamental teaching principles. The themes are guiding principles that ensure that teachers are promoting the development of personal and social responsibility. The themes relate to the skills, knowledge and attitude that teachers must develop in order to teach humanism through TPSR. The model presents four pedagogical themes: integration, empowerment, teacher-student relationship and transfer. Integration refers to the combination of all multiple-tasking required while teaching. For instance, the teacher must combine physical activity knowledge, pedagogical skills and TPSR. Empowering students is the process of gradually shifting the teacher’s power to students, turning the teacher into a facilitator rather than an instructor. The positive teacher-student relationship is based on respect, trust and communication. Transfer learning is undertaken when the responsibility behaviour taught in PE classes are being reproduced elsewhere.
The present research was conducted using a case study methodology. According to Stake (2003), a case study is a system, meaning that it should be able to recognize the diverse elements that compose its structure, explaining how each component affects one another and what can be learned from this relationship. The undergraduate physical education (PE) program from Universidad Pegagógica de El Salvador (UPES) is the ‘system’ analyzed. The study examined if UPES’ program had developed competence and confidence related to attitude, skills and knowledge to teach PE within TPSR’s pedagogical themes (Hellison, 2003).
The study was undertaken at the Universidad Pegagógica de El Salvador (UPES). UPES was founded in 1982 in the city of San Salvador, the country’s capital. The university is divided into two faculties: Education (Faculdad de Educación) and Business (Faculdad de Ciências Econômicas). Due to a great need of educators in the region, the education area has been established as the major field since its beginning (Universidad Pedagogica de El Salvador, 2009). In 2007, the education department started to offer the Physical Education teacher degree (Professorado en Educación Física y Deportes para Educación Básica y Educación Média). In the first year, sixty-six students started the program. One year later there were seventy five. At the beginning of 2009, there were more than one hundred students starting the program.
The participants in this study included 10 students (6 male and 4 female) from the undergraduate PE program at UPES. The participants started their degree in the beginning of 2007 and finished it by the end of 2009 (the academic year in El Salvador starts in January and finishes in November). The data collection for this study took place in the last month of their program (2009). The interviews outlined students’ confidence and competence related to the knowledge, skills and attitude to teach PE within TPSR’s pedagogical themes (integration, empowerment, student-teacher relationship and transfer). The interviews were analyzed using an inductive analysis using TPSR’s four themes as the themes for the content analysis. According to Kvale and Brinkmann (2009) content analysis is a technique used to quantify a content of communication. The interview analysis was deductive in nature to determine whether the four TPSR pedagogical themes emerged from each interview. The analysis also acknowledged when the participants showed opposite ideas to TPSR’s four pedagogical themes.
All interviews were conducted in Spanish by a research assistant that received training to conduct interviews and who had also developed a positive rapport with the students. Having a researcher that had a positive rapport with the students prior to the research was considered as an important contribution, since the students felt comfortable to share their thoughts in a trustworthy environment. All interviews were transcribed in Spanish and then translated into English. The interviews were also coded by an alternative coder in order to guarantee trustworthiness. The interview guide is provided (see Appendix).
The first theme of TPSR is Integration. The idea of integration refers to all multiple tasks that teachers are required to do while teaching PE with humanistic values. A teacher who follows the integration principle must be able to combine PE contents (e.g. motor skills) and humanistic values (e.g. respect for others) without prioritizing either of them. The research found that 8 students (80%) stated the importance of integration. This theme presented a high number of students who showed a concern for applying this concept while teaching PE. The following quote illustrates the students’ perspective.
“…throughout games we can teach values, a great example that we have is the Unity Games, that we have done here at UPES. It is a clear example of what can be taught. And they can also be taught and played in schools. We can’t go anymore just with a soccer ball, there is much more to teach.”
The second theme of TPSRs is the teacher-student relationship. According to the model, it is crucial that this relationship is built with trust, communication and friendship. Each student should be considered as an individual with its particularities, having different difficulties and potentialities in the learning process. The research found that 8 students (80%) stated the importance of the formation of a good teacher-student relationship. This theme presented a high number of students whom were concerned with applying this concept while teaching PE. The following quotes illustrate the students’ perspective. The students were asked how they intended to build their teacher-student relationship.
“First of all, offering them a nice and trustworthy environment…A mutual relationship, like classmates…to be open for criticism and help them in whatever they need. It is like to be a friend.”
“I want for students to trust me, so I can help them if they face any problem… I guess I should face challenges everyday with them, because some children are not as open or talkative and they would not come up to me and tell their problems. So, I guess I would have to know them well to know they are facing a problem”
The third theme of TPSR is Empowerment. The idea of empowerment is the process of gradually shifting the teacher’s power to students. As a result, the teacher can establish the role of a facilitator rather than an instructor. In this scenario, teachers should support their students to develop self-direction and self-motivation attitudes where they are responsible for determining their own goals. The research found that 5 students (50%) stated the importance of empowering students. There were also 20% who indicated an opposite point of view with regards to this pedagogical principle. The following quotes illustrate how students held different perspectives about empowerment. They were asked if students should help them decide what they should learn or if it was their decision alone.
“I believe education is not the same as it used to be. Now it works both ways: I learn from them as much as they learn from me. So it means that as a team, we could see what topics they are interested in, and if they need to reinforce it, so it is like a mutual agreement.”
“I think it should be a mutual agreement, because I cannot teach something that they don’t really like, because they won’t even try to do it. But if they give me ideas, we can use them as a complement of my class. We cannot forget that the centre of the class is the child, everything should be child centred.”
“Students should not help me decide, it is me the one that will decide because I am the teacher. I have to decide what I will teach, the contents, according to my planning. I will teach and I will decide what I want them to learn.”
The last theme of TPSR is Transfer. The idea of transfer is when a teacher tries to show that all the humanistic values that are learned in PE classes should be transferred to all other places. In order to present transferring teaching principles, teachers ought to create discussions to show how learning fits in other environments. Although all students agreed with the idea that transferring learning is important and possible to do it, most of them did not show what attitude, knowledge or skill are needed to succeed in such challenge. As a result, the research found that only 5 students (50%) showed clear ideas on how to teach PE within transfer teaching principles. The following quotes illustrate how students’ show their concern about transferring the students’ learning to other environments. The students were asked what they could do to improve the chances of transferring the behavioural learning from PE classes to other environments.
“I could assign a research paper, giving homework related to their community and something that they are really interested about. We can make a research on why there is a low nutrition status in our community, research on violence and have them come up with solutions. Things they could come up with to help avoid violence, so make them feel they can change and be part of this change as well.”
“First of all, it is important to teach them values, we have to tell them that values are not just sitting there, they are waiting to be put into practice, in school and in the places they live in society.”
Table 1 provides a breakdown of all the themes identified by each participant. Pseudonyms are provided to protect the anonymity of the participants.
The development of UPES Physical Education teaching degree was Salud Escolar Integral’s biggest accomplishment to the present date. UPES has set the goal of developing qualified PE teachers that have the background to foster the development of life skills learning towards the development of a more peaceful community. After three years since the program first started, the first cohort of students has now become the first group of graduates.
The evidence from the interviews reported that most students (80%) presented confidence and competence related to the knowledge, skills and attitude to teach PE with two of TPSR’s themes (integration and student-teacher relationship). Findings reported that students stated the importance of integrating positive behaviours such as respect and caring for others while teaching PE. By describing the significance of integrating learning, students showed similar ideas presented by Light and Fawns (2003) whom expose why students are more willing to understand values when being an active learner:
“Students are not just speakers, writers, and thinkers but also doers. They are active beings in a multidimensional world. It is a world that can be understood as a complex materiality, composed of relations among students and others and relations between students and sports equipment, spaces, and time” (p.172).
While reporting the significance of a positive teacher-student relationship, students demonstrated an understanding of one of the key concepts of the model: each individual is unique and it must be respected. Students pointed how different schools provide different atmospheres, and in order to be successful, the teacher would have to make the effort to understand each place and respect it. Kallusky (2000) describes in detail how challenging this process can be while conducting TPSR in two different schools. The author suggests that each environment is unique which that forces the teacher to engage with the students to construct a relationship. Both experiences narrate the importance of considering each student an individual, respecting their particularities and understanding that each challenge can be perceived differently.
On the other hand, the findings reported that only half of the students felt confident and competent to include the other two themes (empowerment and transfer) while teaching PE. According to Sallas (1997) there is a long history of hierarchical and authoritarian system in the public schools of El Salvador. Therefore, the idea of empowering students may be resisted by many future teachers due to an educational culture that have been established in their country. Furthermore, the author also states that the violence promoted by adults (mostly by parents) over children and youth has become part of their culture. As a result, despite the fact that students state the importance of transferring learning, many of them do not know how to approach problems that are out of the school environment.
Only 50% of interviewees stated the importance of empowering students in their lessons. Nevertheless, some students perspective of empowerment was different from the one defined in the theoretical framework in which they were analyzed. According to Hellison (2003), empowering students is the process of gradually giving students the freedom of choice in regards to what they will learn (relating to the ideas of self-motivation and self-direction). However, there was no consistency amongst the students with how this pedagogical theme was achieved. For some, they would simply identify who the leader was and given them additional responsibilities with regards to making decision within the class. Other students indicated that they would not empower students stating that as the teacher, they are responsible for making all the decisions. In summary, although TPSR illustrates the usefulness of leadership roles to empower students as presented in previous research (Martinek & Schilling, 2003; Wright et al., 2004; Wright and Burton, 2008) this theme cannot be limited to this role. Therefore, students should be better prepared to address this theme in PE classes.
The final theme had all ten students stating the importance of transferring the learning of PE classes to other environments. Nevertheless, only half of these students stated that this transfer is not automatic and that a proper pedagogy is required to promote this transfer. Thus, even though all students seem to believe in transfer learning and emphasize its importance for the successful implementation of a humanistic PE, only a few presented clear plans on how it can be fostered. According to Hellison (2003) transfer is the hardest theme to be accomplished and there is not a single method to achieve transfer learning. However, teachers must constantly plan discussions that will promote positive behavioural attitudes in other environments. Therefore students appear to understand the significance of transfer learning to promote a social impact. Nevertheless they indicated the need for better pedagogical skills in order to address this theme properly.
Almost 40 years ago, the idea that related PE teaching to humanism started to emerge in the academic field. This philosophy relates the learning of physical activities to the learning of teaching positive attitude has developed not only in its theory, but in practice as well. In El Salvador, this legacy has supported SEI’s beliefs to create a PETE program that seeks for the formation of quality teachers that will be engaged to teach PE and life skills together. The results from this study demonstrated that by the end of a program that encouraged the integration of humanistic principles in physical education, the students reported an interest to continue to relate PE and life skills learning when working with schools. Even though they have shown significant progress on how to approach their students when using humanistic approaches to teaching, some pedagogical themes related to TPSR remain a challenge for many students. Despite the fact that these future teachers have shown an understanding on how to build a strong teacher-student relationship and how to integrate PE contents to humanism, they also require further support on how to empower students and how to promote transfer learning. Therefore, in order to foster a positive behaviour that may proliferate to other places, these teachers must learn more about teaching self-direction and transfer learning.
In conclusion, the results of this study show that by embedding humanistic approaches into an undergraduate PE program can foster awareness of TPSR’s four pedagogical themes to various degrees. These have been suggested to form a foundation in developing life skills amongst children and youth. These life skills in turn are critical in helping children deal with conflict in more peaceful ways. Now that there are qualified teachers capable of using these pedagogical themes, the next step is to examine whether or not these future teachers can indeed foster the development of the life skills that children and youth of El Salvador need to prevent violence.
Table 1. Use of Various Pedagogical Themes of TPSR When Teaching PE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. FUNDING FOR THIS STUDY MADE POSSIBLE BY THE SCOTIABANK SALUD ESCOLAR INTEGRAL PROGRAM IN EL SALVADOR.
Coakley, J. (2002). Using sports to control deviance and violence amongst youths: Let’s be critical and cautious. In M. Gatz, M. Messner, & S. J. Ball-Rokeach (Eds.), Paradoxes of youth and sport (pp.13-30). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Encyclopedia Britannica (n.d.): El Salvador. Retrieved June 30, 2009, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/181798/El-Salvador
Ewing, M. E., Gano-Overway, L. A., Branta, C. F., & Seefeldt, V. D. (2002). The role of sports in youth development. In M. Gatz, M. Messner, & S. J. Ball-Rokeach (Eds.), Paradoxes of youth and sport (pp.31-48). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Hellison, D. R. (1973): Humanistic physical education. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Hellison, D. R. (2003): Teaching responsibility through physical activity (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Hellison, D. & Martinek, T. (2006): Social and individual responsibility programs. In Kirk, D., MacDonald, D., & O’Sullivan, M. (2006). The handbook of physical education (pp. 610-626). London, UK: Sage.
Hellison, D., & Walsh, D. (2002): Responsibility-based youth programs evaluations: investigating the investigations. Quest, 54, 292-307.
Kallusky, J. (2000): In-School Programs. In Hellison, D. R., Cutford, N., Kallusky, J., Martinek, T., Parker, M., Stiehl, J. (2000). Youth development and physical activity: Linking universities and communities. (pp. 87-114). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Kvale, S. & Brinkmann, S. (2009): Interviews: learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Light, R., & Fawns, R. (2003): Knowing the game: Integrating speech and action in games teaching through TGfU. Quest, 55(2), 161-176.
Mandigo, J., & Corlett, J. Anderson, K. (2008): Using quality physical education to promote positive youth development in a developing nation: striving for peace education. InHolt, N. L. (2007). Positive youth development through sport. (p.110-121). New York: Routledge.
Martinek, T. (2008): Creating responsible youth through physical activity: The Don Hellison story. RICYDE. Revista Internacional De Ciencias Del Deporte/The International Journal of Sport Science, 4(11), 83-84.
Martinek, T., & Schilling, T. (2003): Developing compassionate leadership in underserved youths (Youth Leader Corps provides special learning experience). Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 74(1), 33-39.
Sallas, L. M. (1997): Violence and Aggression in the Schools of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. In Ohsako, T. (1997). Violence at school: Global issues and interventions. (pp. 110-126). Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Sheppard, J., & Mandigo, J. (2009): PlaySport: teaching life skills for understanding through games. In Hopper, T; Butler, J; Storey, B. (2009) TGfU…simply good pedagogy: Understanding a complex challenge. (p.74-85). Ottawa, ON: Physical and Health Education Canada.
Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (2008). Harnessing the power of sport for development and peace. Toronto, ON: Right to Play.
Springer, A. E., Selwyn, B. J., & Kelder, S. H. (2006) A descriptive study of youth risk behavior in urban and rural secondary school students in El Salvador. BMC International Health and Human Rights 6 (3), 1-11.
Stake, R. E. (2003): Case studies. In Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2003). Strategies of qualitative inquiry (p. 119-150). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
United Nations (2005): Final Report International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from http://www.un.org/sport2005/a_year/IYSPE_Report_FINAL.pdf
United Nations’ Secretary-General (2006). Report on the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children. (United Nations Report No. A/61/299). Geneva. Accessed online on December 23rd, 2008 at http://www.violencestudy.org/IMG/pdf/English-2-2.pdf.
Universidad Pedagogica de El Salvador. (n.d.): Quiénes somos? Retrieved July 7, 2009, from http://www.pedagogica.edu.sv/quienes.php
Wright, P.M., White, K., & Gaebler-Spira, D. (2004): Exploring the relevance of the personal and social responsibility model in adapted physical activity: A collective case study. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 27, 138-154.
Wright, P. M., & Burton, S. (2008): Implementation and Outcomes of Responsibility-Based Physical Activity Program Integrated Into an Intact High School Physical education Class. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 23, 71-87.
World Health Organization (2004). The world health report 2004: Changing history. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
World Health Organization (2002): World report on violence and health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health.