look now - "Busy, Happy, and Good" is
still very much alive
By: Mary L. Henninger and Margo
Perhaps you have a colleague in your
physical education program that fits
this description – In this person's
class there is almost always a good
participation rate with a few students
sitting out. The teacher's role has
become that of a supervisor who makes
sure that the game is played fairly
and no one is getting hurt. The students
follow directions and seem to be enjoying
the class. At first glance, this class
appears to be running smoothly and seems
effective. Upon taking a closer look,
what is really happening? Has the teacher
articulated measurable goals and outcomes
for the class? Have the students learned
the skills the teacher intended them
to learn? Are all the activities developmentally
appropriate? Is there a way to measure
the students' success in the class that
is aligned with state or national standards?
We really don't know the answers to
these questions without taking a more
in-depth look at the class, the teacher,
and their program. Perhaps what is going
on is simply "busy, happy, good."
In today's physical education, "busy,
happy, good" is defined as keeping
the students active, having fun and
behaving. While this is certainly desirable
in a physical education setting, a well
managed class is no guarantee that learning
is occurring. Teachers need to ensure
that learning occurs in all three domains
relative to their objectives and state
and national standards. Despite an increased
emphasis on accountability in physical
education through the development of
state and national standards (NASPE
2004; 1995) issues related to the definition
of success in physical education persist.
In 1983, Placek found that keeping students
"busy, happy, and good" superseded
all other learning outcomes in physical
education. Unfortunately, this has not
changed much despite the development
and refinement of the characteristics
of a physically educated person (NASPE,
In a recent study where 19 K-12 physical
educators were interviewed, Henninger
and Coleman (2008) found that: (a) Teachers
struggled to define success particularly
in the psychomotor domain and were very
reluctant to "grade" based
upon skill development, (b) Assessment
in physical education is primarily related
to student behavior to the exclusion
of health related fitness, psychomotor,
and cognitive outcomes, and (c) "busy,
happy, and good" (Placek, 1983)
is alive and well in physical education
today despite an emphasis by national
and state organizations to define the
characteristics of a physically educated
person. In this article we'd like to
share some strategies to combat these
Teachers struggle to define
Have you ever asked yourself, "How
do I know when a student is successful
in my class?" Teachers often have
a difficult time defining what success
means in their particular program. Success
is not always linked to student learning,
particularly in the psychomotor domain.
Few teachers assess whether students
are meeting established goals and benchmarks
for becoming competent movers in a variety
of activities as is mandated by NASPE
Standard 1. Common issues raised by
many teachers, is that it's unfair to
assess students based on skill performance
due to lack of time to develop competence,
and to differences in student abilities
upon entering the class. As a result,
it becomes difficult for teachers to
define the characteristics of a successful
student. The following are some suggestions
to eliminating barriers to defining
of time to develop skill:
less and do it better. Try
to cover fewer units, and spend more
time on the areas you wish to develop
and assess. Students will be more
successful if they can concentrate
their efforts on fewer skill requirements.
In this way, students can develop
foundational skills in a unit before
learning more complex skills when
the unit is taught again the next
skills through game play.
Another way to better develop skills
is to teach skills in a game like
context. When students see how a skill
is used in actual game play, they
will become more motivated to learn
the skill and become successful.
the rules. Don't be afraid
to modify game rules to encourage
skill development. For example, in
a basketball unit, strict enforcement
of double dribble rules during game
play may hinder students learning
how to dribble because the game is
constantly stopped and re-started.
small. Small sided games
are also a terrific way to provide
opportunities to use their skills
in game play.
doesn't always equal grades.
Assessment can be used not only for
grading purposes, but also to help
design future lessons and inform students
as to their progress towards success.
in student ability levels:
can be a learning process.
Use results from assessments to help
differences. Expect and accept
different ability levels. Just like
any other discipline in a school,
students will be at a variety of developmental
is a part of the equation.
Skill is a component of success, not
the sole determiner of success. A
students' grade can be made up of
many components. While the psychomotor
domain is our unique province, a students
success can be measured in a variety
of ways including the cognitive and
overloading students. Students
need to develop competence in a skill,
not Olympic caliber performance. Competence
means students can participate at
a level where they can enjoy participation.
If students enjoy participation they
are much more likely to engage in
physical activity on their own time
or even through adulthood.
Assessment related to behavior
When asked to define student success,
teachers frequently resort to discussions
of grading policies. Often teachers
assess student success relative to how
well they behave in class to the exclusion
of other learning outcomes. In the study
of K-12 physical educators, many participants
based their assessment of students on
effort, the ability to follow directions,
dressing for class, and the ability
to work well with others (Henninger
& Coleman, 2008). There is reluctance
on the part of many teachers to equate
success with other learning domains,
in particular the psychomotor domain.
The most common reason for not assessing
the psychomotor domain is that teachers
feel it takes too much time to complete
skill assessments, and thus takes away
from activity time. Here are some ideas
to make assessment of psychomotor outcomes
easier and less time consuming.
- Assessment Made Easier.
Setting up and conducting time-intensive
skill tests that isolate skill from
game contexts can take away valuable
activity time. Combat this by assessing
students when they are in game play.
It not only saves time, but is a more
authentic indicator of a student's
ability in the psychomotor domain.
it manageable. It's not always
necessary to assess every student
each day. Instead, select a few students
each day and gradually work your way
through the class.
stations. When several stations
are set up, make one of the stations
an assessment. Placing the teacher
at this station allows him/her to
assess a small group of students as
they rotate through.
persistent. Assessing is
a teaching skill that takes practice.
It will take time to become proficient
at smoothly assessing a group of students
selective. If it's worth
teaching, it's worth assessing. Thus,
carefully plan units of instruction
and the content of those units. Avoid
assessing "trivial pursuit"
types of content. It's not necessary
for students to know the dimensions
of a basketball court when they could
be learning how to be a better ball
handler. A useful question to ask
oneself is: "is this information
or skill critical to students' success
in this activity?" If it isn't,
don't teach it.
Still Busy, Happy, Good
There is little doubt that there is
still work to be done to improve the
quality of many physical education programs.
Unfortunately, "busy, happy, and
good" (Placek, 1983) is alive and
well in physical education today. Being
active, having fun, and behaving are
all important expectations of students
in physical activity, as in all educational
settings; the problem is when that becomes
the only way that teaching and student
success is measured.
- Don't underestimate your
students: Set your expectations
high. Students will only give you
what you expect of them. If a teacher
is satisfied with a class that is
busy, happy, and good - that is what
he/she will get. Underestimating students'
abilities not only limits their progress,
but also limits your success as an
Often, the factor that
limits students' success the most
is the teacher and his/her decisions
on content, and how to define success
relative to that content. For example,
if a teacher believes that students
cannot be successful in a dance unit,
that teacher will be unlikely to teach
dance and will most certainly be reluctant
to assess students' dance skills.
Students can only learn what is taught
and assessed. If no skills are taught,
the students have no opportunity to
your content: Competency
in skill should be an integral component
of any physical education program.
The unique contribution of physical
education is learning in the psychomotor
domain. Failure to teach and assess
students' success based upon psychomotor
outcomes calls into question the legitimacy
of our profession and content.
While most physical educators would
tell you that their job is to teach
students how to play a variety of games
and activities, they typically don't
relate student progress in the psychomotor
domain to student success. Often when
asked to describe a successful student,
teachers reply with information related
to how students earn their grade. Success
is also rarely linked to any state or
national standards. Definitions of student
success should align with district,
state, and national standards. Appropriate
learning outcomes in the psychomotor,
cognitive and affective domains are
integral components of quality physical
education programs. Teachers who are
willing to develop effective curriculums
with well defined outcomes are essential
for physical education to gain and maintain
its rightful place in K-12 school curricula.
Henninger, M., & Coleman, M. (April,
2008). Student success in physical
education: Still busy, happy, and good?
Poster presented at the annual American
Alliance of Health, Physical Education,
Recreation, and Dance convention in
Ft. Worth, TX.
Association for Sport and Physical Education
(NASPE). (2004). Moving into the
future: National standards for physical
education (2nd ed.). Reston, VA:
Association for Sport and Physical Education
(1995). Moving into the future: National
standards for physical education. Reston,
Placek, J. (1983). Conceptions of success
in teaching: Busy, happy and good? In
T. Templin & J. Olson (Eds.), Teaching
in physical education (pp. 46-56).
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.