For two PE teachers, getting their doctorate this summer will fulfill long-awaited career goals. The online Doctor of Education in Kinesiology (EdD in KIN) program at UNC Greensboro will allow them to advance their careers in unexpected ways.
A one-of-a-kind program
Earning a doctorate is something Teri Schlosser has always wanted. The Rockingham County, N.C., lead elementary PE teacher says the online format is making it happen.
Students can continue to work full-time while earning the doctoral degree. The flexible program is designed for practicing professionals who want a doctorate focused on professional scholarship and practice in leadership, advocacy, and teaching.
Dave Jones, a PE teacher in Wake County, N.C., has wanted this degree for 10 years. “Without this program, the only one in the country of this nature, I would probably not have taken this next step in my professional career,” he says.
Teaching during the day and working as a personal trainer most evenings, he has relied on friends in his cohort for feedback and support. Through shared documents, video chatting, and texting, students complete group projects and form unique friendships.
Bringing new knowledge to the PE classroom
Students are able to apply new knowledge right away, bringing skills from courses and findings from their research to their PE classrooms.
“I was getting better as a teacher every semester, and I felt like I was able to apply the information I was learning in class right to my students, including motivation, getting them excited, and having them value physical education,” says Schlosser.
For her dissertation, Schlosser looked at getting children more physically active in association with teaching strategies. She used wrist-worn accelerometers to monitor students’ physical activity, finding no differences between activity levels of different grade levels or genders.
“What that means for me is that the activities the teachers are choosing are meeting the needs of all students,” she says.
Linking physical activity to learning
Jones looked at poverty levels, physical activity, and academic performance for his dissertation.
“Teaching physical education at a high-poverty school, I have learned so much about the effect of poverty on fitness and academics among children and am using that to better my students and students across the county,” he says.
Previous research has not found much on the effect of poverty, he says. “It seems students in high-poverty schools are at a lower average level of fitness and academics across all variables I looked at,” he says.
Changing physical activity in schools
Jones and Schlosser are making changes in their schools.
Jones has created recommendations to increase students’ physical activity in high-poverty schools and helped enact a schoolwide policy requiring daily physical activity. He hopes to implement other measures to get kids more physically active, including a grant for a running club and a track.
His daily instruction focuses on teaching kids why they need exercise and to be physically active on their own. “I stress a non-competitive environment so that my students, and the ones who need the physical activity the most, do not shy away from it,” he says.
The program has helped Schlosser establish a curriculum, identify strategies that promote physical activity and learning in the classroom, and provide feedback and assessment.
She has also stepped up her leadership at school, helping to replace unhealthy snacks with fresh fruit, starting an afterschool running program for students, and running an afterschool aerobic exercise program for teachers.
“If I’m just sitting in my school teaching PE, that’s great, but I want to advocate for a healthy school, healthy teachers, healthy students,” she says.
Because of this work, her school was named to the 2017 Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools.
Looking to the future
Originally, Jones wanted to earn a doctorate to teach at the collegiate level. During the program, and as a result of his dissertation research, he decided to continue as a PE teacher, hoping to offer professional development to other PE teachers.
“I would like to mainly serve schools with high populations of low-income families,” he says. “I have seen the obstacles they face on a daily basis and think that providing more physical and valuable academic opportunities for these kids would have great benefits.”
Schlosser pursued the doctorate to hopefully one day teach future PE teachers. The program is a step toward that goal, helping her look for new opportunities to grow in her current role.
“There’s no doubt that I’ve become a better teacher,” she says. “It’s helped me establish what I value.”
Want to know more?
Find out more about the online EdD in KIN. Download a brochure.