“Empowerment is the fundamental theme of teaching responsibility through physical activity.”

(Hellison, 2003)

Students have an inside self and an outside self. We observe some social/emotional behaviors such as: students showing respect for others, positively experiencing content, being actively involved in learning, and supporting and helping others. Other behaviors cannot be observed as clearly: feelings, dispositions, values, attitudes, and self-perceptions.

Educators use the affective domain of learning as an umbrella term that can include student feelings, interests, emotions, desires, attitudes, appreciations, commitment, will power, dispositions, morals and values. These emotions and feelings are complex, hard to measure and difficult to teach. Affective behaviors all influence how learners respond to themselves, the teacher, each other and learning experiences. Affective learning is also known as social-emotional learning (SEL).

The social and emotional learning that schools often desire cannot be passed from teacher to learner in the way information is transmitted. Nor can students achieve them in the manner in which they achieve cognitive learning targets. Feelings and emotions are almost always the consequence of success, failure, tasks accomplished or not accomplished and so forth.

Further Reading:

Elias, M. J. (2006). The connection between academic and social-emotional learning. From M. J. Elias & H. Arnold (Eds.), Guide to Emotional Intelligence and Academic Achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Payton, J., Weissberg, R.P., Durlak, J.A., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., Schellinger, K.B., & Pachan, M. (2008). The positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students: Findings from three scientific reviews. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

Social-Emotional Learning Targets

Educators often describe social-emotional learning with terms such as rules, discipline, behavior and so forth. Social and emotional learning is more than having students follow classroom procedures. It helps students assume more responsibility for learning, their well being and the well being of others. Psychologists and educational theorists (see reference list below) have organized social/emotional behaviors into the following frameworks

  • Personal and Social Responsibility – respect, involvement, responsibility and caring
  • Character - trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship
  • Intrapersonal intelligence - to use self knowledge for accessing, identifying and drawing upon feelings to guide behavior
  • Interpersonal intelligence – to identify and respond appropriately to temperaments and desires of others
  • Emotional intelligence - recognizing one’s emotional responses, and those of others, and using this knowledge in effective ways
  • Social/Emotional learning - developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship management.

Employers look for social and emotional behaviors such as dependability, punctuality, reliability, the ability to work productively in groups, and to contribute with ideas and sustained effort. All of these behaviors can be developed in schools.

When students are learning these behaviors it usually occurs in the following sequence: reception, response, valuation, organization and internalization. Reception is defined as being willing to attend to an idea or stimulus such as listening to instructions. A learner who chooses to follow instructions or act in accordance with rules describes response or responding. Valuation is when a student assumes responsibility for behaving in a prescribed manner. Organization occurs when the learner puts together several values together and integrates behavior. Finally, internalizations is when a student maintains harmony between values and behavior independently.

Social/Emotional Learning in Physical Education

Hellison's (2003) Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model. This model was originally designed for underserved and at-risk youth and based on principles of moral and character development, and encourages students to respect themselves and others, be willing to participate in PE, be self-directed and identify their needs, and develop their own physical activity programs. It also focuses on the caring for others by cooperating, giving support, showing concern, and helping. The TPSR model has been recommended to help students gain a personal-social-cultural perspective and represents a shift from thinking about PE as developing solely physical proficiency to focusing equally on the social and emotional development of students (Fletcher, 2009).

What are the levels of responsibility?

The TPSR model's levels can be described as moving from irresponsibility to responsibility, moving from respect for oneself and to respect and concern for others. These behaviors would be first developed within the physical education class and then used outside of the gym, in the home and community settings. The table below describes the levels in detail. The last level involves taking the behaviors of the fourth levels and applying them outside of the classroom. At level 5, students are working on being able to transfer what they've discovered in the gym to the reality of their life outside of your PE program.

  • Show respect for themselves, others and the learning environment
  • Are actively involved in learning throughout each lesson
  • Assume responsibility for continual self-improvement
  • Show concern and support for others


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Bar-On, R., & Parker, J. D. A. (Eds.). (2000). The handbook of emotional intelligence: theory, development, assessment, and application at home, school and in the workplace. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Bar-On, R., Maree, J. G., & Elias, M. J. (2007). Educating people to be emotionally intelligent. Westport, CN: Praeger Publishers.

Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes, N. M., Kessler, R., Schwab-Stone, M. E., & Shriver, T. P. (1997). Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: guidelines for educators.

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Fletcher, T. (2009). Elementary physical education: Fitness sessions or whole-child development? Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education/Revue canadienne des jeunes chercheures et chercheurs en éducation, 2(1), 1-8.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books.

Goleman, D. (1997). Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.

Hellison, D. (1978). Beyond Balls and Bats: Alienated youth in the gym. Washington, DC: AAHPERD.

Hellison, D. (1984). Goals and Strategies for Teaching Physical Education. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.

Hellison, D. (2003). Teaching Responsibility through Physical Activity (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

The Josephson Institute of Ethics. (2007). Character Counts. Retrieved April 6, 2007 from

Krathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B.S., & Masia, B. B. (1964). Taxonomy of education objectives: handbook II: The affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is Emotional Intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Implications for educators (pp. 3-31). New York: Basic Books.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J.D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.

SCANS, Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.

Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Wang, M. C., & Wahlberg, H. J. (2004). Building academic success on social and emotional learning: what does the research say? The series on social and emotional learning.

New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.