Perspectives of physical education student engagement in an experientially based Inclusion and Diversity Physical Activity unit

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Konjarski, Loretta (2021) Perspectives of physical education student engagement in an experientially based Inclusion and Diversity Physical Activity unit. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


It is widely accepted by today’s Australian society that education, in particular, be inclusive and accessible for all students. Teachers regularly report a perceived limit to their skills set in relation to working with students with a disability, particularly when the students are in a mainstream setting. This perception has also been identified within cohorts of physical education (PE) teachers with many reporting they do not feel confident to teach students with a disability in a physical activity setting. Research has shown that PE teachers often feel underprepared to work with students with a disability, particularly in PE classes where activities may need to be modified or adapted for full participation (Forlin & Chambers, 2011; Barber, 2018). The purpose of this study, adopting a phenomenological approach, was to demonstrate the importance of undergraduate tertiary PE students participating in an inclusion and diversity or Adapted PE program, and to understand the value of that experience. The mixed methods research methodology with a focus on phenomenology was developed using a triangulation methodology that used three phases of research to produce data that would address a set of sub- aims relating to the undergraduate PE student experience and the perspectives of experts regarding inclusive practices. Phase 1 of the research involved surveying undergraduate PE students participating in an Inclusion and Diversity in Physical Activity unit in an inner-city university in the west of Melbourne, Australia using the Physical Educators’ Attitude Towards Teaching Individuals with a Disability (PEATID-11) questionnaire pre and post-completion of the Inclusion and Diversity in Physical Activity unit. As a questionnaire was used, a positivist paradigm was adopted for this quantitative phase. One hundred and twenty two responses were collected and of that, 29 were completed both pre and post-completion of the unit. Results indicated that there were significant differences to the attitudes of the undergraduate PE students’ pre and post the unit, which is supported by previous research findings using this instrument. The PEATID-11 data results found students showed positive changes in their attitudes and behaviours after completing the unit, as they scored higher in the post-mean scores in each category of the questionnaire indicating a more positive intent post-completion of the unit and demonstrating the importance of the inclusion of the unit in the undergraduate PE degree. A prediction that therefore can be made is that undergraduate PE students, who have specific, focused Adapted PE training, as a part of their undergraduate PE studies, will have a more favourable attitude towards inclusion and working with students with a disability. Phase 2 of the research utilised focus groups with the same undergraduate PE student cohort using a phenomenological lens to capture their ‘lived experience’ of participating in the Inclusion and Diversity in Physical Activity unit. Three focus groups, with a total of 22 undergraduate PE students were conducted with students post the completion of the unit. This approach has provided a data that describes the students’ experiences and learnings in their own voices that has not been a feature of earlier quantitative studies. The research has provided an additional perspective to the current body of knowledge in the research conducted around the impact of Adapted PE courses on the attitudes, confidence and skill set of undergraduate PE students and has identified keys trends, themes and issues in relation to the experiences and learnings of students engaged in the Inclusion and Diversity in Physical Activity unit at Victoria University. Results of this phase of the research showed that the undergraduate PE students did report the value the experience and found it to be ‘life changing’ and useful. The third phase of the research involved the completion of 8 individual interviews with industry education experts in the field of PE and inclusion. This last phase of the research was designed to investigate in what way how inclusion teacher training was viewed and how important it was considered to be by experts in the field. Findings of this stage of the research overwhelmingly support the inclusion of Adapted PE, inclusion and diversity training in undergraduate PE degrees. This was evidenced by more favourable attitudes towards working with students with a disability at the completion of an inclusive PE unit and positive responses to focus group questions on the impact of the inclusive PE unit. The three phases of the research support the importance of including an inclusive PE program in an undergraduate PE degree. This research supports the literature that clearly demonstrates that preservice and undergraduate teachers who have had experience in an Adapted Physical Education unit as part of their studies, which included theory and practice, could make a difference to the predisposition of their preparedness to be more inclusive. (Hodge et al., 2002). Additionally, this research adds to the body of knowledge in providing undergraduate PE student voices together with expert educators’ voices regarding the importance of ‘hands on inclusive learning’. The findings that detail more favourable attitudes post-completion of the inclusive PE unit in association with the positive ‘lived experience’ data, prompted the recommendations of including mandated inclusive education and training for physical education teachers (both undergraduate and practicing) and the requirement of inclusive practice training being provided within an experiential context. It is anticipated that the findings of this research will serve as evidence to support the development of undergraduate PE courses and foster further research in regards to inclusive education and training for physical educators.

Additional Information

Doctor of Education

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3903 Education systems
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords disability; inclusion; schools; physical education; physical activity; PE teachers; PE coaches; planned behaviour; inclusive education; undergraduate teachers; attitudes; behaviours; professional development
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