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American Physical Education from an International Perspective

by Gunay Sen

I’m an international doctoral student from Turkey, and I came to the United States to learn about the culture and training practices for teachers of physical education. It hasn’t even been one year since I arrived on campus and started observing K-12 physical education classes. I was very impressed with what I saw. First of all, the facilities and equipment opportunities here are far ahead of those in Turkey. I have met a lot of creative and dedicated teachers who use this to their full advantage. I believe that the fewer external barriers for teachers, the higher their motivation for teaching.

With regard to the teaching culture in American physical education, there are many teachers who do very well and devote themselves to developing the profession, contrary to the seemingly unattainable situations surrounding teachers in Turkey. However, I have observed that there is a high number of American physical education teachers who make excuses without fulfilling their responsibilities. In looking at the differences between the two countries, the educational system that has already been developed in the United States gives others the opportunity to see strengths and weaknesses and make changes for the better. A variety of sports and activity offerings, adequate equipment, the presence of continuous supervision, and approaches such as student activity time in physical education rather than total course hours are factors that increase the quality. In Turkey, there are still some teachers who believe that “rolling out the ball” and allowing students to play for 2 hours is an acceptable way to improve students’ skills, attitude and knowledge.

I have discovered that pre-service teachers’ relationships with students and colleagues and the time they spend in schools are very important for learning their profession. As a result of this training, prospective teachers have a chance during their undergraduate experience to experience exactly what they will face when they start to work as teachers. However, due to the inadequacy of teacher training programs in Turkey, most of their teachers feel like “a fish out of water” when they start their career.

Both countries are working hard to develop and progress in the field of physical education and sports, according to their social and economic structures. One of the most important points for this is to create social awareness. As individuals who dedicate themselves to the development of physical education, professionals in Turkey should also strive for it. Hopefully, in both countries, physical education, which is a foundation of children’s health, development, and sports skills, will live up to its potential. I am excited to take back information I learn about physical education and training future teachers to my country to improve the quality of physical education as a whole in Turkey.

Gunay Sen Teaching Elementary Children in Turkey
Gunay Sen is a first-year doctoral candidate in the Education Sciences – Physical Education strand in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Promotion at the University of Kentucky. He is funded by the country of Turkey. His research relates to physical education curriculum and teacher training.