The Gold Medal Fitness Program: A model for teacher change
Taylor and Francis Ltd
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Education/ Fogarty Learning Centre
Background: Following the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the NSW Premier, Mr Bob Carr, launched a school-based initiative in NSW government primary schools called the Gold Medal Fitness Program to encourage children to be fitter and more active. The Program was introduced into schools through a model of professional development, Quality Teaching and Learning Materials (QTLM), then widely used by the NSW Department of Education and Training. The implementation of the Program was evaluated by a research team at the University of Wollongong for its effects on the fundamental movement skills, self-esteem and participation in physical activity of participating children and its success as a program of professional development for non-specialist primary school teachers. Purpose: This paper describes the component of the evaluation that was designed to determine the use and impact of the Quality Teaching and Learning Materials (QTLM), as an action research-based model of professional development for the Gold Medal Fitness Program from the perspective of the teachers from schools involved in the Program. Participants and setting: Ten government primary schools in New South Wales were identified by the Department of Education and Training (DET) as those to be targeted for the evaluation of the Gold Medal Fitness Program. In each of these schools the teachers who were most involved in the Program, and available at the time a member of the research team visited the school, were interviewed—this ranged from three teachers to most of the staff in some smaller schools. Research design: The research used an evaluation model to examine: (i) the role played by the Program, and specifically the QTLM model of professional development, in increasing teachers' understanding of, and perceived capacity to teach, fundamental movement skills as part of the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) curriculum; and (ii) teachers' perceptions of the efficacy of the QTLM model. Data collection: The teachers were surveyed at the workshops conducted at the conclusion of the GMFP and interviewed in groups at their schools during the Program. The school portfolios that were a key component of the QTLM approach were also provided by the schools and the DET for analysis. Data analysis: The surveys were analysed using SPSS to provide descriptive statistics and the interviews and portfolios were analysed as they addressed the research aims but also for other themes that emerged from the data. Findings: From the point of view of the schools involved in the Program, the GMFP via the QTLM was a very engaging and successful model of professional development. The professional development workshops generated enthusiasm for the Program. The Program provided materials, experiences and information which developed teachers' ability to teach fundamental movement skills and radically increased their confidence to teach physical education; it enhanced their capacity to program in an organised and sequential fashion; and it provided a context in which these outcomes could be readily communicated and taken up by the whole school. Conclusion: While it is difficult to determine the impact in the long term, the results of the study suggest that from the schools' point of view the GMFP was a very engaging and successful model of professional development; and that students did improve their fundamental movement skills. The research also confirmed other research which suggests that non-specialist teachers need and welcome support in teaching physical education in primary schools.