A useful tool, especially for physical education teachers

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Erwin Apitzsch
Department of Psychology, Lund University


Sarah Benes & Holly Alperin The Essentials of Teaching Health Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment 320 pages, hardcover. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics 2016 ISBN 978-1-4925-0763-5

Sarah Benes & Holly Alperin
The Essentials of Teaching Health Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
320 pages, hardcover.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics 2016
ISBN 978-1-4925-0763-5

The primary aim of The Essentials of Teaching Health Education. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment is to develop health-literate individuals from Kindergarten throughout high school. This is done by an emphasis on skill acquisition as opposed to knowledge acquisition, which is intended to lead to empowered students, who will develop skills, attitudes, and knowledge in order to maintain and enhance their health. The book is endorsed by SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, with the aim to ensure that all children have the opportunity to lead healthy, physically active lives.

The content of the book is based on five parts:

  • Building the foundation of a skills-based approach;
  • Teaching to the national health education standards;
  • Developing curricula and assessments;
  • Strategies for effective instruction; and
  • Beyond the classroom.

A web resource, connected to the book, offers supplemental learning activities. Each of the 18 chapters is structured on learning objectives, key terms, advice from the field, summary, and review questions. Figures, tables, sidebars, and key points complement the text and, when appropriate, examples are given for the following age groups: Early Elementary, Late Elementary, Middle School, and High School.

The core of the book is Part II, “Teaching to the National Health Education Standards”, which contains seven chapters. The chapter on interpersonal communication covers not only listening, but also self-expression (expressing feelings, wants, and needs), refusal (how to say no in different situations), conflict resolution (managing a conflict in a constructive way), and negotiation (how to reach agreement). These latter aspects are seldom covered and, therefore, represent a very valuable asset in this area. The message is that we must be able to stand up for ourselves in order to stay healthy. For example, to give students the opportunity to prepare for the consequences when they need to make a refusal and build confidence to say no. With regard to conflict resolution, the students have to identify ways in which the conflict might have been avoided in the first place, and what skills to apply to resolve the conflict.

The strengths of the text are the focus on learning for life, individualizing, and giving time for practice as well as providing concrete examples on how to achieve the goals. Thus, the physical education teachers, who are the target group of the book, have to adopt a participatory teaching method, resulting in instructions that allow students to see change in the present, but also useful in the future. I found two sentences very useful with reference to take the students’ perspective: “What information about this topic do my students need in order to effectively apply the skill being covered?”, and “If my students do not learn this information, will they be able to apply this skill to achieve the desired outcome?” Another strength is the importance of using peer support for attaining or maintaining healthy behaviors, thus utilizing the impact that group norms have on individual members.

In my opinion, the best way to benefit from the content of the book is to study the chapter(s) according to your current needs, but refrain from stretch reading. The text could be reduced without missing essential information, and references such as “as mentioned”, “as described before”, as discussed in chapter…” could be removed. On the other hand, more scientific theories and results would have added to the text. For example, I think that the Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & Di Clemente, 1977) is worth mentioning when dealing with behavior change.

I have noticed only one editorial error, “…are more likely to participate because it is has become more socially acceptable…” (p. 56) shall read “…are more likely to participate because it has become more socially acceptable…”.

Overall, the text is a very useful tool, especially for physical education teachers, but also for other professions in the health care business, and people who are engaged in changing behaviors to a more healthy lifestyle.

Copyright © Erwin Apitzsch 2016

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