University Physical Education Students’ Understanding and Interpretation of Social Interaction as Part of a Meaningful Physical Education Experience
The promotion of meaningful experiences is a primary way teachers can enact a transformative physical education (PE) curriculum for students (Kretchmar, 2006). Recent advances have led to a framework that outlines the following features of a meaningful experience: social interaction, challenge, fun, motor competence, delight, and personally relevant learning (Beni, Fletcher, & Ní Chróinín, 2017). This study examined how university physical education students understand, learn to articulate, and plan to enact positive social interaction as one feature of meaningful experiences in PE. The study took place in one undergraduate class where the instructor emphasized and articulated the components of positive social interaction. Participants (n = 10) took part in one or two individual interviews at the beginning and/or end of one academic term. Non-participant observations (5) of the class were conducted and exit slips (42) collected from students. Students had a basic understanding of positive social interaction at the first data collection point, whereby finding and making friends or encouraging one another were emphasized, which revealed a lack of sophistication in understanding. At the end of the course, students developed a deeper understanding of social interaction and its components, which they contributed to their teacher educator intentionally reflecting on positive social interaction and articulating the complexity of it with them, organizing inclusive class activities, and making an effort to develop meaningful relationships. This study is significant because it highlights the need for PE teacher education (PETE) instructors to be explicit in articulating and demonstrating ways in which social interaction can be understood, interpreted, and enacted.