(Assistant Professor in Physical Education Teaching) and (PE teacher in public Greek Physical Education)
The issue of youth participation in PE and sport is definitely an issue that needs to be redefined, especially in regard to equity principles and PE teachers’ role is pivotal to this direction. In many countries, in service PE teachers’ professional development on gender issues lacks theoretical understandings and practical resources, limiting thus their abilities and skills to design and implement gender-neutral classes and/or activities. The fact that within many Physical Education Teacher Education departments practical courses are taught in purely male or female groups, constraints undergraduates’ experiences and ways of understanding. Further, the establishment of mixed gender PE classes at school not only fails to reverse the above situation, but in many cases may contribute to the reproduction of stereotypes, both by novice and experts in the field.
Empowering girls and young women through PE and sport is a major educational issue that has to be resolved by starting from small-scale changes in curriculum content and instructional methods. The use of game-based instructional models could address gender access and participation imbalances within, ensuring their holistic learning and providing specific tailored support when needed. Game-based models place the student at the center of the learning process, by providing equal opportunities for participation, improvement and progress, within specifically designed game contexts that positively challenge their thinking, feeling and acting behaviors and/or habits. A positive aspect of game based model teaching concerns the way that group formation and teamwork issues are resolved (i.e. developmentally appropriate activities, small-sided games, questioning and challenges at a group level), something that can positively affect girls' participation rates and minimize feelings of helplessness or failure in a co-educational classrooms. Compared to traditional “one-size-fits all” PE classrooms, modified games can ensure fair play and multiple opportunities for participation, challenging stereotypes about which sports or activities are considered male or female.
Depending on our role as PE teachers and teacher educators, we advocate for the promotion of equality and social justice within our classes, so that student wellbeing is empowered regardless of their gender and abilities. Game-based instructional models could be a relevant framework for redesigning a gender-neutral PE curriculum, especially due to their emphasis on developing students’ knowledge, skills, character, and meta-learning abilities. The latter are considered as important dimensions for educating versatile 21st century learners who will effectively cope with the societal, economic and personal level challenges of the modern world with poise and resilience.