Theses Doctoral

Teaching Effective Physical Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Assessing Experiences, Barriers, and Lessons Learned from a Sample of Elementary PE School Teachers

Hare, Nichol

The importance of access to quality physical education (PE) among children is well-documented. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, resulted in significant shifts in PE curriculum delivery alongside a rapid uptake by PE teachers of new technologies. Although some research about integrating technology into teaching does exist, there is very little data about virtual learning in elementary school, particularly in the context of physical education. There are also clear gaps in the literature about teaching PE virtually during a pandemic. As such and in this study, I sought to fill a critical gap in the existing literature by identifying what specific factors shaped elementary physical education delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as barriers and facilitators to successful curriculum delivery, and I drew implications for future emergency response needs.This mixed-methods study examined elementary physical education teachers’ perceptions of teaching virtually during the spring of 2020 and/or 2020-2021 school year. The study’s sample drew on PE teachers from urban, rural, and suburban settings across the US, which included diverse experiences to explore teachers’ perceptions of virtual teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys and focus groups were utilized.

Results from this study elucidated that physical education teachers were challenged by limited space, equipment, internet use, and distraction within the environment when teaching. However, teachers in this sample also discussed their tenacity to help their students stay active by delivering supplies to families, posting on social media, and teaching how to make alternative equipment. Teachers also reported that the more support they received (for example, via social emotional support and also specific technology support), the less stress they felt during remote teaching. At the same time, the higher the teacher perception on live lesson participation, the more efficacious the teachers felt. The expectations of PE teachers during COVID varied from region to region, and the ever-changing schedules made teaching PE that more difficult.

Although there has been some research on teaching virtually, before the pandemic there was very little research about specifically teaching elementary PE virtually. The need to pivot to remote instruction is part of our future. The implication of this work helps support the need for further education of public health goals. The need for a platform that supports PE and elementary age children is needed to best support this work. Using technology as an enrichment and supplement for PE to help reach this goal could be a positive outcome of this pandemic. The use of virtual platforms will also help deliver PE content to families and allow for technology skill development through targeted practice for any future need to pivot to remote.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Rajan, Sonali
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 28, 2024