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Functions of Teachers of Adapted Physical Education

This is an excerpt from Adapted Physical Education and Sport 7th Edition With HKPropel Access by Joseph Winnick & David L. Porretta.

By Joseph P. Winnick and David L. Porretta

An educational approach now receiving a considerable amount of attention is universal design for learning (UDL) (Lieberman et al., 2021; Meyer et al., 2014). As conceptualized, UDL ensures that all students have access to and success in learning, especially those with unique educational needs. The UDL framework has particular relevance not only for adapted physical education teachers, but for general physical education teachers as well. UDL encompasses the design of educational facilities, materials, instructional methods, and assessments. To affirm its importance, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 includes reference to UDL, especially as it relates to the design and use of technology to support the learning of all students, including those with disabilities. The overall programmatic framework is conceptualized around nine core tenets as described by McGuire and colleagues (2006) and Block (2016). These include

  1. equitable use,
  2. flexibility in use,
  3. simple and intuitive use,
  4. perceptible information,
  5. tolerance for error,
  6. low physical effort,
  7. appropriate size and space,
  8. community of learners, and
  9. instructional climate.

A key aspect of UDL is for teachers to anticipate student differences and plan for them prior to instruction. However, teachers also need to monitor student progress and be able to implement adjustments along the way as needed.

Functions of Teachers of Adapted Physical Education

This section discusses key functions performed by teachers and others who contribute to successful teaching of adapted physical education. These functions include identifying unique needs, determining appropriate instructional settings and supplementary or support services, selecting strategies for individualizing instruction, and adapting activities. Special consideration is given to individualized instruction and adapting activities within the context of UDL. Finally, preparing students without disabilities for inclusion and preparing support personnel are also discussed.

IDENTIFY UNIQUE NEEDS The first step is to identify the student’s unique needs. Once this is accomplished, the most appropriate program content and objectives can be selected. In the absence of unique needs, the appropriate setting is general physical education.

The identification of unique needs is a foundational basis of an individualized education program (IEP). This determination is heavily based on screening and other assessment procedures, which schools will have in place. It is important for physical educators to be involved in determining students’ needs in the field of physical education. Sample guidelines for determining unique needs are presented in chapter 4. Several chapters in this book include information to help identify, clarify, and meet unique needs.

DETERMINE APPROPRIATE INSTRUCTIONAL SETTINGS AND SUPPORT SERVICES Once unique needs are determined, settings for instruction and supplementary or support services can be identified. Possible settings are presented in figure 2.1. Settings for instruction depend on the support or supplementary services required. Support services might include team teaching, peer tutoring, teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, or volunteers. In addition to support services, there might be a need to identify and provide Section 504 accommodations to promote interaction, such as interpreters, facilities, equipment or supply modifications, and even rule modifications. Examples of supplementary services include physical, occupational, or recreation therapy as well as orientation and mobility training.

INDIVIDUALIZE INSTRUCTION The ability to individualize instruction is important. Individualization occurs when teachers make modifications in their objectives, methods of assessment, content, instructional materials, teaching styles, and instructional strategies and methods. Examples of individualized cycling activities for students with visual disabilities are presented in figure 2.2.

To enhance individualized instruction, UDL focuses on three overarching principles (Meyer et al., 2014, p. 7):

  • Multiple Means of Engagement. Utilizing the interests of learners, offering choices of content and tools, and increasing motivation by offering adjustable levels of challenge. Various ways of getting and staying engaged in learning. It is the “why” of learning and results in motivated learners.
  • Multiple Means of Representation. Giving learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge by using a variety of methods to present information. Various ways to present and access information, concepts, and ideas. It is the “what” of learning and results in knowledgeable learners.
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression. Providing learners alternative ways of demonstrating what they know. Various ways of planning and executing learning tasks or skills. It is the “how” of learning and results in goal directed learners.

Each principle is further organized and expanded upon by guidelines (CAST, 2020). The guidelines for multiple means of engagement provide options for recruiting interest, sustaining effort, and self-regulation. The guidelines for multiple means of representation provide options for enhancing perception, language and symbols, and comprehension. The guidelines for multiple means of action and expression provide options for physical action, expression and communication, and executive functions. Taken collectively, UDL is designed to educate students who are ultimately purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal-directed. The principles and guidelines are the basis from which appropriate activity variations, modifications, and adaptations (as well as facilities, curriculum, and assessment) in adapted physical education and sport can be used. A number of chapters in the book offer examples of activity variations and modifications. The next section describes possible activity adaptations. Additional ways to facilitate individualized instruction are also discussed elsewhere, including differentiated instruction (chapter 7), cooperative learning (chapter 7), and multisensory teaching (chapter 8).

ADAPT ACTIVITIES In order for individualized instruction within the context of UDL to be successful, teachers must adapt activities. Adapting activities increases the likelihood that students with varying abilities will have the same opportunity to participate and gain equal benefits from participation (see the Application Example sidebar). Of course, not all adaptations are equal, or lead to the same results, or are good. For example, allowing a student using a wheelchair to play in a traditional basketball game involving nine students without disabilities might jeopardize the education and safety of the players and is probably not a good modification strategy. Permitting a double dribble in a basketball game by a student with low cognitive functioning might be considered a good strategy by some teachers and students but be viewed as unfair by others. With this in mind, it is useful to evaluate adaptations using established criteria. For the purpose of this book, the following criteria are suggested for determining good adaptations in settings that include students receiving adapted physical education. A good adaptation does the following:

  • Promotes interaction and interplay. Good adaptations enhance interaction, cooperation, competition, and reciprocity to the extent appropriate.
  • Meets the needs of all students in the class. Good adaptations meet the needs of all students and do not jeopardize the education of any student in class.
  • Improves or maintains self-esteem. Good adaptations improve or maintain the self-esteem of all students. Adaptations should not embarrass or inappropriately draw attention to students.
  • Provides physical activity. Good adaptations promote physical activity for all classmates as much as possible (e.g., elimination-type activities would be contraindicated).
  • Provides a safe experience for all. Good adaptations sustain a safe environment for all participants.

Modifications for physical activities have been directly or indirectly categorized in many ways. Lieberman and Houston-Wilson (2018) suggest four modification areas for adapted activities: equipment, rules, environment, and instruction. Each area involves a change or variation so that students with unique needs might be better able to participate in skills or games. As an example, table 2.1 provides some ways in which the activities associated with softball can be modified using the four categories. The modifications may be applied to most or all physical activities and to one or more individuals participating in the activity. This book provides adaptations for physical education and sport based on these modification areas and others.

Table 2.1 Modifications of Softball Activities

Although adapting physical activities via the four modification areas is a useful approach, adaptations can be enhanced in other ways as well. The sidebar Techniques for Promoting Physical Education Participation presents seven helpful techniques for involving students with and without disabilities. These techniques may also be evaluated using the criteria for good adaptations presented earlier. The first suggested technique is to permit the sharing, substitution, or interchange of duties in an activity. This technique is patterned after the idea of a pinch hitter or a courtesy runner in softball. In an inclusive setting, for example, a runner without disabilities might run to first base after a nonambulatory student strikes a softball from a tee, or a runner who is blind might run bases with a sighted partner.

A second helpful technique is to select activities in which contact can be made and maintained with an opponent, partner, small group, or object. Children with auditory or visual impairments might engage successfully in such activities as tug of war, chain tag, square dancing, and wrestling because continual contact is made with partners, team members, or opponents. Children with visual impairments might also use a rail to guide their approach while bowling.

A third helpful technique is to modify activities in such a way that all participants assume an impairment or disability. If not overused, this strategy can be useful in educating all children. Students without disabilities might simulate lower limb impairments during an activity by hopping on one foot; they could also close their eyes or be blindfolded while playing Marco Polo in a pool.

Modifying or avoiding elimination-type games or activities is a technique generally recommended for general physical education. In dodgeball, for example, rather than being eliminated from play when hit by a thrown ball, children might become throwers standing behind their opponents’ end line or simply have a point charged against them. In a game of Jump the Shot, the winner could be the one who makes contact with the shot the least number of times rather than the last person remaining in the activity.

Participation is sometimes promoted when play areas are reduced for students with limited movement capabilities. For example, a student with a below-the-knee amputation and a prosthesis might successfully play tennis, badminton, or volleyball in a court that is narrower than standard. Years ago, American football players with vision impairments played on fields 10 yards (9 meters) wide. Reducing the size of play areas might also be advisable to decrease activity intensity for children exhibiting cardiopathic disorders, severe forms of diabetes, or other conditions affected by exercise intensity.

The next technique is to emphasize abilities rather than disabilities. For example, Deaf children or those who have vision impairments might be more successful in activities if auditory or visual cues or goals were used. Instead of running to a line, students with impaired vision might be asked to run toward a bell, horn, whistle, drum, or clapping sound. Students with impaired vision might also shoot baskets, perform archery, or play shuffleboard if an auditory goal locator is placed near the target. Students with severe movement restrictions or using wheelchairs might play a game in which the winner is the one who most closely predicts her time in negotiating 100 yards (91 meters), thus emphasizing cognitive abilities over physical ones.

A final recommended technique, and perhaps the most helpful, involves modifying activities by giving handicaps. This strategy originates from games such as bowling and golf, where handicaps are given to even the playing field. In a running relay, for example, a child with a lower limb impairment may run a shorter distance or be given a head start. In a basketball shooting contest, a student with less ability might participate by standing closer to the basket, using a smaller ball, or shooting at a larger rim. When playing Wiffle ball, students with eye–hand coordination deficits might be permitted to use a much larger plastic bat. In tennis, a player using a wheelchair might be permitted to strike the ball after it has bounced twice. In these instances, the idea is to see who can participate or win under the conditions determined at the outset.

PROMOTE AWARENESS AND ACCEPTANCE OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES A fifth key function is promoting awareness and social acceptance of students with disabilities by general physical education students. It is commonly accepted that positive experiences contribute to overall peer acceptance and healthy social attitudes toward people with disabilities and their involvement in physical education and sport activities. Block (2016) has suggested several activities that general physical education teachers can implement to enhance awareness and acceptance. Examples include the following:

  • Inviting guest speakers with disabilities who have had successful experiences in physical education and sport
  • Conducting role-playing activities
  • Talking about famous people who have disabilities
  • Teaching about friendships
  • Leading a discussion about disabilities
  • Providing ongoing information, encouragement, and support for everyone

Exhibiting positive attitudes and modeling appropriate social behaviors are key factors for successful acceptance by general physical education students. The teacher should clearly convey that students with disabilities are individuals who belong in an inclusive society.

PREPARE SUPPORT PERSONNEL A sixth function of teachers who implement adapted physical education is to prepare support personnel. Successful teaching frequently depends on the provision of appropriate support services. Support services might be quite varied and might involve teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, related service professionals, adapted physical educators, volunteers, students, and others. To optimize the use of support personnel, the teacher needs to be confident that the personnel are prepared to provide their unique contributions. The nature of the preparation will vary according to the role that support personnel provide and the background of each contributor.