Physical education at the crossroads: An examination of physical education challenges, changes, and best practices at three liberal arts colleges

by Williams, Debra D., Ed.D., UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, 2010, 222 pages; 3421854


This dissertation is a qualitative case study of how three liberal arts colleges rationalized and provided physical education courses despite a trend in higher education to reduce or eliminate physical education from the curriculum. Kalamazoo College, Bennett College for Women, and Barnard College for Women continue to provide physical education and all students must fulfill a physical education requirement to graduate. Guided by a liberal arts ideal defined in terms of a curriculum that offers a broad base of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, each school carries out its mission and purpose through a set of core beliefs that includes physical education. For example, through general education requirements, a major subject requirement, electives, and physical education requirements, the structure and content of each school's curriculum strongly associates a functional relationship between education and wellness.

This research sheds light on how wellness education—a combination of physical education and health and fitness concepts—relates to the fulfillment of a liberal arts education, and also sheds light on why it makes sense to provide physical education for college students. The study examines three cases through the lens of a liberal arts college standard where physical education represents and fulfills a degree requirement and also represents the opportunity to advance the health of students. This research found a strong commitment to wellness as an educational philosophy about student learning and student development. By creating and sustaining an educational environment that develops intellectual skills and habits of the mind, each school employed actions that focused on goals aimed to help students become more enlightened and well-rounded individuals. Further, through a confluence of curriculum decisions that supported physical education at these three colleges, a commitment to wellness education has allowed physical education to maintain relevance amidst trends that question its value and purpose. As a best practice aimed at encouraging students to participate in physical activity, physical education is a means to an end that is purposeful, goal oriented, traditional, and a way of doing things at Kalamazoo, Bennett, and Barnard.

AdviserMatthew Hartley
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsPhysical education; Higher education; Educational philosophy
Publication Number3421854

About ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
With nearly 4 million records, the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT) Global database is the most comprehensive collection of dissertations and theses in the world. It is the database of record for graduate research.

PQDT Global combines content from a range of the world's premier universities - from the Ivy League to the Russell Group. Of the nearly 4 million graduate works included in the database, ProQuest offers more than 2.5 million in full text formats. Of those, over 1.7 million are available in PDF format. More than 90,000 dissertations and theses are added to the database each year.

If you have questions, please feel free to visit the ProQuest Web site - - or contact ProQuest Support.