Key Components of a Quality Program
The goal of Ontario secondary schools is to support high-quality learning while giving individual students the opportunity to choose programs that suit their skills and interests. Quality programs help students develop their critical and creative thinking to synthesize information and make decisions to help them thrive in an ever-changing world. For the program to be relevant, students must see themselves in the curriculum and be able to connect what they are learning to their lives.
A quality program in Health and Physical Education (H&PE) engages students in learning and helps them develop their health and physical literacy by learning about the factors that contribute to health and well-being and in building skills that can be used now and in the future to live healthy, active lives (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015, p. 3).
A quality program is designed to effectively support students in:
- acquiring the living skills they need to be resilient;
- learning the knowledge and skills needed to develop their personal fitness and enjoy being active throughout their lives;
- learning fundamental transferable skills, concepts and strategies to be able to participate in a variety of activities throughout their lives; and
- learning about factors that contribute to their healthy development to take responsibility for their health and make connections to the world in which they live.
Creating and delivering a program that integrates these elements and connects learning to students’ everyday lives is critical to support students in acquiring the competence, confidence and therefore, capacity to lead a healthy active life.
When teachers design a quality program, they must keep in mind the five Fundamental Principles in Health and Physical Education upon which the curriculum was founded.
The Five Fundamental Principles in Health and Physical Education
Health and physical education programs are most effective when they are delivered in healthy schools and when students’ learning is supported by school staff, families and communities.
- Health and physical education programs are most effective when they are delivered in healthy schools and when students’ learning is supported by school staff, families and communities.
- Physical activity is the key vehicle for student learning.
- Physical and emotional safety is a precondition for effective learning in health and physical education.
- Learning in health and physical education is student-centred and skill-based.
- Learning in health and physical education is balanced, integrated, and connected to real life.
For more information about the five Fundamental Principles, see pages 9-10 in the H&PE Curriculum or visit Ophea Teaching Tools to listen to Student Voice: Activate the Discussion videos and view the poster series, which captures the essence of these principles for teachers, students, parents and community. The All About H&PE online learning videos and poster series provide an in-depth look at each of the five Fundamental Principles that underpin the 2015 H&PE Curriculum.
Foundations for a Healthy School
The creation of healthy schools is growing, not only in Ontario but also across Canada and around the world. “A health-promoting school is one that constantly strengthens its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working.” (World Health Organization, 2016) A well-planned, comprehensive and holistic health and physical education program is a vital component of a healthy school.
The Foundations for a Healthy School resource created by the Ministry of Education identifies five key areas that, together, contribute to effective learning about healthy active living within the context of a healthy school environment.
These five interconnected areas are:
- Curriculum, Teaching and Learning: a wide range of well-planned and informal opportunities to learn, practise and demonstrate knowledge and skills;
- School and Classroom Leadership: the creation of a positive classroom and school environment by identifying shared goals and priorities that are responsive to the needs of the school community;
- Student Engagement: the extent to which students identify with and value their learning, feel a sense of belonging at school and are informed about, engaged with and empowered to participate in and lead academic and non-academic activities;
- Social and Physical Environments: the design and quality of the built environment to ensure students’ capacity to be active and healthy and a positive school climate modelled by everyone in the school community that promotes feelings of safety, supportiveness, inclusion, respect and acceptance in all formal and informal settings; and
- Home, School and Community Partnerships: collaboration with parents/guardians, extended family, school staff and external organizations on school initiatives that promote access to greater opportunities for healthy and active living, and increase access to resources and services for all members of the school community.
It is important to consider these areas of a healthy school when creating a health and physical education program and to consider the entire school community when implementing the curriculum. For more information about how to make your school a healthy school, see Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification program.
Long Range Plan Considerations
A balanced health and physical education program:
- has a diverse selection of activities that meet a broad range of needs ensuring that all students receive every opportunity to learn and perform to their full potential;
- should be both challenging and fun;
- should emphasize participation and cooperation as well as self-improvement;
- uses a variety of instructional approaches;
- take into account students’ prior knowledge, attitudes, learning styles and exceptionalities;
- provide students with opportunities to develop socially in a variety of ways through teamwork and fair play, cooperation with and consideration of others, learning how to work within the rules and celebration of individual differences;
- accommodate diverse student needs taking into account the facilities accessible, the variety of equipment available, organization of the learning environment, student interaction and assessment and evaluation;
- include opportunities for daily physical activity;
- focus on the knowledge and skills articulated in the curriculum expectations;
- promote maximum participation in all activities and in a variety of contexts by using all available facilities and resources;
- include a balance of skill development, movement activities, games/sports and health- related concepts appropriate to the developmental needs of the students;
- provide ample opportunities to develop movement competence and develop their personal fitness on an ongoing basis through active participation; and
- provide a safe environment for students.
Planning for Healthy Living Education
The Healthy Living strand helps students develop an understanding of the factors that contribute to their healthy development, encourages them to take personal responsibility for their lifelong health and make connections between their own health in relation to others and their world (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015, p. 37).
Students need personal skills such as adapting, management and coping skills, interpersonal skills such as communication, relationship and social skills and critical thinking skills such using effective strategies to solve problems, make decisions, build and sustain healthy relationships and set goals. These skills may be learned while focusing on healthy living. They can also be learned and applied when students are working with peers in a physical education setting through active participation, while focusing on the development of their personal fitness and through team play and when learning transferable fundamental skills, concepts and strategies.
Effective program planning can be designed to help students learn and apply these “living skills” in a variety of contexts by integrating learning rather than timetabling and delivering health education and physical education as separate entities. Planning models are moving away from “blocked” units of health and towards a more integrated approach whereby students learn health concepts and skills (one to two days of focused learning) and then have an opportunity to apply those skills in the context of physical education. For example, students may focus on goal setting connected to their health behaviours and then apply that same skill to setting personal fitness goals. Students learn effective decision-making strategies when thinking about their personal safety and use those same decision-making strategies while working with a team during a territory game. By programming learning to reflect this integrated approach, students are able to learn and apply these critical living skills.
Variables to Consider in Program Planning
There are a number of variables that differ from school to school and that will influence planning. These include:
- staff expertise;
- staff training and comfort level;
- school timetabling;
- class size;
- school priorities and plans;
- facilities and equipment;
- student background;
- needs and interests;
- socioeconomic factors;
- community needs;
- availability of offsite facilities (provides students with additional experiences while expanding their enjoyment of and participation in a variety of physical activities and wellness pursuits); and
- other resources such as public health and other community partners and offsite facilities.
Teacher/Department Considerations for Long Range Planning
When developing a yearly or semester plan that will reflect the philosophy of H&PE and allow students to successfully achieve the curriculum expectations, the teacher must decide on several issues regarding organization/structure:
- The scope of the health and physical education program – are there other sections or lines of the course running at the same time or during the same semester. Engaging colleagues teaching the same course in the planning process will ensure increased coordination of activities.
- Previous grade progressions based on curriculum mapping that demonstrate the scope and sequence of learning from Grades 7-12 (refer to pages 202–205 of the H&PE Curriculum).
- Time of year and appropriate facilities (i.e., indoor or outdoor).
- Resources available.
- Opportunities for exposure to a variety of physical and health literacy learning opportunities.
- Overall curriculum expectations – what are the essential, enduring learnings students will acquire through this course and how can they best be provided for them.
One of the key issues is the "blocking" (continuous days) of classes, e.g., 5-7 day activity block, 5-7 day health block. Before deciding on whether or not it is appropriate to block classes, teachers should consider:
- What the advantages/disadvantages are to blocking physical activity units.
- What the advantages/disadvantages are of blocking health living units.
- What an appropriate length of a physical activity unit is.
- What an appropriate length of a healthy living unit is.
- How the learning in healthy living can be integrated into active living and movement competence activities?
- Whether healthy living if delivered in a unit, will incorporate and implement daily fitness (e.g., should healthy living learning include continued opportunity to integrate daily fitness via a Fitness Blast before each health class?).
- Whether units if not blocked, should be blocked on specific days of the week to target specific activities (e.g., health on Mondays, interactive games on Fridays).
- How much time is needed for the final 30% performance task.
There is no one size fits all as a model for a quality H&PE program; however, the sample Long Range Plan provides an example of how a quality program may be structured to meet the vision and goals of the curriculum, support students in becoming health and physically literate and incorporating the planning considerations outlined above.