Conceptualizing Meaningful Physical Education

A Secondary School Case Study




Physical education, Meaningful PE, group concept mapping


Background and purpose: The research literature in physical education (PE) is placing a growing emphasis on Meaningful PE (Beni et al, 2017) to transform PE to meet the needs of all students. The purpose of this research was to 1) identify the concepts of Meaningful PE that students found to be important and 2) distinguish which concepts have the most potential to provide students with Meaningful PE experiences.  

The study: The project was conducted in three PE classes among grade 7 to 9 students in an urban secondary sports academy school in collaboration with their PE teachers. Data was collected using the GroupWisdomⓇ Concept Mapping (2021) platform and group interviews with the objective to have PE students and teachers conceptualize Meaningful PE.

Findings: The study found that students’ and teachers’ context specific conceptualizations of Meaningful PE can be identified using GCM. The major tenet of Meaningful PE found was relationships. Student and teacher participants identified important concepts for Meaningful PE as a combination of statements within the clusters of kindness, physical activity, fun, and quality education. The findings call for a broad understanding of students within each school context in order to conceptualize meaningful physical education experiences.  

Conclusions: It is my conclusion that involving students in the conceptualization of Meaningful PE by focusing on autonomous and inclusive relationships is of great importance to co-create Meaningful PE experiences. Secondary students were able to identify what is important for meaningful experiences in PE and how inclusive relationships can facilitate Meaningful PE experiences.