The Value of Social and Emotional Learning in Physical Education

With his recent passing, we are reminded of the amazing contribution Don Hellison made. He impacted our scholarly work with his focus on a humanistic approach to Physical Education. Don made a major contribution to our understanding of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

There is a rising interest and inquiry into SEL in the US and in many other countries. For some time now there has been a drive in education for math and literacy and a move away from a more holistic education. I argued in my Research Quarterly commentary (Dyson, 2014) that internationally Physical Education has been the victim of a narrowing of the school curriculum due to high stakes testing.

I suggest that because our current education climate is often focused on physical activity as a mantra with less focus on Physical Education, we have drifted away from some of the important values and beliefs that Physical Education was founded on. Social, emotional, physical, and cognitive capabilities are essentially interconnected and interdependent. Physical Education can make a valuable contribution to the development of students’ SEL. We need a stronger focus on SEL in Physical Education. Another great Physical Education scholar, Cathy Ennis, remined us of this in her QUEST paper (Ennis, 2011) when she argued that we should focus on teaching the whole child.

Paul Wright, Shirley Gray and I have sessions on SEL at the AIESEP World Congress. I am excited about my new research in primary school on SEL. I look forward to meeting you and discussing SEL at the AIESEP conference. There will be some great presentations to attend and no doubt a lot of stimulating conversations.

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Ben Dyson