An empathetic approach to Physical Education Teacher Education

Tony Monahan, University of Rhode Island


The current crisis in societal obesity and other inactivity-related chronic health disorders has become a widespread concern in the United States. Physical Education (PE) with its propensity for physical activity has the potential to provide solutions to many chronic health issues. However, a large body of literature suggests that generations of students have been "turned off' to lifelong physical activity because of negative experiences in traditional PE classes. A more student-centered approach may be needed to ensure that all students have an opportunity to lead a healthy, physical life. ^ The purpose of this research study was to determine the effect of a semester-long empathy-focused educational intervention on empathy levels in 59 college-level students studying in Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) Programs at three East-coast universities. A quantitative pre-post quasi-experimental design with control groups was used to measure changes in pre-existing empathy levels among participants. Subjects were given the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) empathy scale and a reflective essay assignment. Experimental groups participated in a curricular intervention involving an emphasis on empathy and affective educational practices. ^ ANCOVA results revealed statistically significant findings in "Higher Order" empathy levels in the experimental groups, F (1, 49) = 4.36, p = .04. Analysis of reflective essays also suggested a change in experimental group subjects' personal view of PE toward an empathetic approach. Study strengths, weaknesses, and implications for future research and practice are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Education, Physical|Education, Teacher Training

Recommended Citation

Tony Monahan, "An empathetic approach to Physical Education Teacher Education" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3415503.