Cross-disciplinary Research
on Equitable Advanced Technology
for Education

Social and Emotional Learning in Physical Education

2021 Morgridge Researcher/practitioner Partnership Accelerator Grant (MRPEG) Award

Project title

A research-practice partnership to promote transformative social and emotional learning through K-12 physical education.

Project description

This partnership will exapnd a mutually beneficial collaboration between the College of Education and the U-46 school district in Elgin. The inter-departmental team will work with administrators and teachers to design, implemement, and evaluate a year-long professional development initiative focused on developing culturally responsive pedagogies for addressing social and emotional learning in physical education.

Research goals and significance

The project builds on increasing evidence that social-emotional learning (SEL) programs support positive outcomes related to, for example, personal and social skills, and mental and emotional well-being. To address issues related to social inequity, culture and linguistic differences, the project will extend SEL programs by developing and implementing a transformative SEL program adapted to students’ varied realities. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the delivery of physical education (PE), but also heightened teachers’ awareness of students’ needs related to SEL. Thus, the 2021-2022 is an opportune time to reinvent the culture of PE in the U-46 district, to retain the focus on the whole student and their social context, and to create spaces in PE to explore issues of culture and equity.

Research questions

  1. How do educational stakeholders (e.g., teachers, students, parents) in a large, diverse public school district currently view the role of SEL in PE?
  2. How can SEL be integrated into a large and diverse public school district in culturally responsive and transformative ways?
  3. 3What impact can a customized professional development initiative have on PE teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, and teaching practice related to transformative SEL?
  4. How can changes in teacher practice focused on transformative SEL support students’ overall well-being and engagement in PE?
  5. How can such an initiative involve parents and families to promote health equity?

Expected outcomes

With regard to all PE teachers in U-46, we expect to see increased understanding of transformative SEL and how it can be promoted in PE, increased self-efficacy for teaching personal and social skills, as well as greater appreciation of curricular value orientations related to equity and social justice. Regarding the subset of PE teachers who engage in action research as part of a community of practice, we expect to see substantial change in the ways they plan, implement and assess SEL with their classes. We also expect to see increases in positive developmental experiences among their students and their engagement with SEL competencies. In terms of partnership development, for our existing PE teacher licensure program, the increased collaboration with U-46 will enhance opportunities to place student teachers and for our alumni to find opportunities for networking. More broadly, the PE and Wellness division at U-46 will receive cutting edge PD tailored to meet the needs of the district, teachers and the communities they serve. Finally, the data gathered in this study will make a significant contribution to our ongoing international study of SEL in PE.

Research team