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Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion 

through the Physical Education Curriculum

Promoción de la equidad, diversidad, e inclusión mediante el currículo de Educación Física

Promoção da equidade, diversidade e inclusão por meio do currículo de Educação Física


Amaury Samalot-Rivera, Ph.D.*


Willy Kipkemboi Rotich, Ph.D.**



*Ph.D. Adapted Physical Education at The Ohio State University

M.A. Adapted Physical Education at The Ohio State University

B.A. Physical Education University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus

Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education

State University of New York at Brockport

**Ph.D. Physical Education Teacher Education at The University of Texas at Austin

M.Sc. Sports Pedagogy School of Kinesiology Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

B.Ed. Physical Education at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya

Assistant Professor Kinesiology Sports Studies and Physical Education

The College at Brockport



Reception: 08/19/2022 - Acceptance: 01/29/2023

1st Review: 01/11/2023 - 2nd Review: 01/26/2023


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Suggested reference: Samalot-Rivera, A., & Rotich, W.K. (2023). Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion through the Physical Education Curriculum. Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, 27(298), 160-170. https://doi.org/10.46642/efd.v27i298.3648



    Physical Education is one of the only subjects where students can be physically active and socialize with their peers. It’s not a secret that when children and youth participate in a Physical Education class, they show many good behaviors but also inappropriate ones, like making fun of others because of how they look, perform, think, dress, communicate, or because of where others come from. Literature has demonstrated that when physical educators take the time to teach and promote social skills, students improve their behaviors and become more socially aware of diversity, equity, and inclusion. For this reason, this article aims to provide Physical Education teachers with a practical idea of promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion by implementing a thematic academic calendar focused on diversity. Also, to clarify some concepts related to social justice and diversity that teachers should be familiar with to implement this idea. Finally, share steps to develop and implement a thematic academic calendar focused on diversity in the Physical Education class.

    Keywords: Bullying. Physical Education. Curriculum. Equity. Diversity. Values. Social skills. Social justice. Inclusion.



    La Educación Física es una de las únicas materias en las que los estudiantes pueden estar físicamente activos y socializar con sus compañeros. No es un secreto que cuando los niños y jóvenes participan en una clase de Educación Física, muestran muchos comportamientos apropiados, pero también inapropiados, como burlarse de los demás por cómo se ven, por cómo actúan, piensan, visten, se comunican o por su lugar de procedencia. La literatura ha demostrado que cuando los educadores físicos se toman el tiempo de enseñar y promover habilidades sociales, los estudiantes mejoran su conducta y son más conscientes socialmente sobre temas relacionados a la diversidad, la equidad y la inclusión. Por ello, este artículo pretende brindar a los docentes de Educación Física una idea práctica para promover la equidad, la diversidad, y la inclusión, a través de un calendario académico temático centrado en el tema de la diversidad en la clase de Educación Física. Además, se esclarecen algunos conceptos relacionados con la justicia social y la diversidad que los docentes deben conocer para implementar esta idea. Finalmente, se comparten algunos pasos a seguir para desarrollar e implementar un calendario académico temático enfocado en la diversidad en la clase de Educación Física.

    Palabras clave: Bullying. Educación Física. Currículo. Equidad. Diversidad. Valores. Habilidades sociales. Justicia social. Inclusión.



    A Educação Física é uma das únicas disciplinas em que os alunos podem ser fisicamente ativos e socializar com seus pares. lugar de procedência. A literatura tem mostrado que quando os educadores físicos dedicam tempo para ensinar e promover habilidades sociais, os alunos melhoram seu comportamento e tornam-se mais conscientes socialmente das questões relacionadas à diversidade, equidade e inclusão. Portanto, este artigo tem como objetivo fornecer aos professores de Educação Física uma ideia prática para promover a equidade, a diversidade e a inclusão, por meio de um calendário acadêmico temático voltado para a questão da diversidade na aula de Educação Física. Além disso, são esclarecidos alguns conceitos relacionados à justiça social e à diversidade que os professores devem conhecer para implementar essa ideia. Por fim, são compartilhados alguns passos a seguir para desenvolver e implementar um calendário acadêmico temático voltado para a diversidade na aula de Educação Física.

    Unitermos: Bullying. Educação Física. Currículo. Equidade. Diversidade. Valores. Habilidades sociais. Justiça social. Inclusão.


Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 27, Núm. 298, Mar. (2023)




    Bullying and rejection among students in the school environment, including the physical education class, continue to be a problem that must be addressed (Jimenez et al., 2020, & Healy, 2014). According to Berlatsky (2015), bullying is defined as any form of psychological, verbal, or physical abuse produced by school children over a given period. Unfortunately, literature has demonstrated that physical and verbal aggression is still problematic in physical education classes (Correa et al., 2018). Further, other forms of bullying and rejection have been identified in the physical education literature that is of concern, like gender discrimination, body image, and physical competence. (Benítez-Sillero, 2020)


    Prejudice has been identified as a main reason for these in the physical education classroom (Santos et al., 2021). Mallett, & Monteith (2019), describe prejudice as a preconceived opinion, generally negative, towards something or someone which is based on stereotypes. They also mentioned that stereotypes comprise a structured image most people accept representing a particular group. For example, "all left-handers write poorly" or "all short people cannot play basketball." Comments like these can lead to discrimination and intolerance. Discrimination consists of giving unfavorable treatment or undeserved contempt to a particular person or group. Both prejudice and discrimination can happen based on gender, sexual preference, religious beliefs, physical appearance, skill level, social class, ethnicity, or special needs.


    Dr. Omar Ponce (2016), in his book Pedagogical Physical Education of Social Impact, mentions that the society of the 21st century shows a range of environmental, social, political, and economic problems that influence the physical, mental, and emotional health of individuals. In turn, the physical, mental, and emotional health behaviors that are developed in childhood can carry over into adulthood. Therefore, educational reform is needed (including the physical education program) to educate in values and social skills ​​from an early age (Figure 1). Like many other professionals in physical education and related fields, Dr. Ponce recommends the development of social skills and values through the physical education class. By doing this, we can help current and future generations of students to be more sensitive and respectful of everyone’s uniqueness.


    For many years, the physical education class has been identified as a suitable environment for teaching values and social skills and promoting inclusion, equity, and diversity (Hellison, 2011; Vidoni, & Ulman, 2012; Samalot-Rivera, & Vidoni, 2015; Samalot-Rivera et al., 2017; Samalot-Rivera, 2017; Stuhr et al., 2018, Hodge et al., 2017). In addition, others have stated that the physical education class can be used to teach Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) (Ciotto, & Ganon, 2018; Olive et al., 2021; SHAPE America, 2020). Further, the physical education class has been identified as a suitable environment to encourage interaction and social inclusion of all students regardless of their diversity. (Harrison, & Clark, 2016; Hodge et al., 2017)


    Our professional and moral duty as educators is to provide all students with the necessary opportunities to develop in all three domains of human development, including the affective domain (Casey, & Fernandez-Rio, 2019). Focusing instruction on developing personal and social responsibility, fair play, appropriate social skills, inclusion, and social and emotional learning are essential aspects of a well-designed physical education program (SHAPE, 2015). Besides, it is essential to emphasize that all educators are responsible for educating their students in values and social skills so they can be sensitive and understanding of everyone’s uniqueness.


    For these reasons, the primary purpose of this article is to share with physical education teachers the idea of using a diversity thematic calendar to help create an instructional environment that focuses on the development of values, social skills, and inclusion. Further, to suggest steps to follow on how to implement a diversity thematic calendar as a curricular framework in the physical education class. Lastly, to provide basic information on models that physical educators can use to teach the desired social skills and values through the physical education class. 


Figure 1. Positive impact of Physical Education

Figure 1. Positive impact of Physical Education

Source: Ponce (2016)


Diversity Academic Calendar in Physical Education 


    The main idea proposed in this article is for teachers to develop a thematic calendar focused on teaching values and social skills ​​to promote equity, social justice, and inclusion through the physical education class (Figure 2). This strategy can be used as a curricular framework in the physical education class, and teachers can lead their instruction by focusing on the development of the affective domain, specifically on topics related to diversity. As mentioned before, it is unfortunate that we still see inappropriate behaviors and feelings towards others due to their gender/gender identity, sexual preference, religious beliefs, physical appearance, skill level, social class, ethnicity, or special needs (Table 1). Understanding all these concepts will help teachers identify possible topics for discussion and develop an appropriate diversity thematic academic calendar. 


    Figure 2 illustrates an example of how a diversity calendar could look. As noted, you must assign values you will focus on for a specific month. Then, teachers will use different strategies to talk and reflect on these values during instruction time. In the next sub-section, steps to follow on how to implement this idea will be provided. 


Figure 2. Example of a school calendar focused on values




Respect / Acceptance


Justice / Equity




Honesty / Integrity


Compassion / Tolerance


Responsibility / Punctuality








Sportsmanship (Final Reflection)

*Values selected to create this calendar were selected from Ponce (2016)


Table 1. Examples of prejudice and discrimination

  • Gender (less participation and opportunities because of their gender)

  • Sexual preference/identity (homophobia-discrimination based on preference and identity).

  • Religious belief (disparaging someone for their beliefs).

  • Physical appearance (mockery or contempt for how one looks).

  • Skill level (less chance for being selected on a team because less skill).

  • Social class (marginalized because having less expensive things or not having them at all).

  • Ethnicity (mockery or contempt for nationality, skin color, or cultural costumes).

  • Special need (mockery or contempt for not being able to do something like their peers without disabilities).

Source: Authors


Steps to follow for the creation of the thematic calendar and the implementation of a diversity calendar in physical education 

1.     Measuring the present level of knowledge and behavior of the students in the affective domain 


    The first step suggested for teachers is to assess their students’ present level of knowledge and behavior related to values and social skills. Different assessment tools can be used to measure these like for example questionnaires, exit slips, checklists, among others. Any form of assessment the teacher determines is appropriate (Figure 3). It is important that teachers have a baseline on their students’ understanding related to diversity topics as well as inclusion, social skills, and values. This could be done by observing their interactions during the first few weeks of class or assessing their previous knowledge about the different topics. Figure 3 illustrates an example of a rating scale with different behaviors that can be measured during a physical education class.


Figure 3. Affective domain rating scale

The student…

All the Time

Most of the Time

Rarely or Never

Follow the rules set by the teacher.




Appropriately interact with peers.




Is sensitive and respects classmates’ ability level.




Accepts constructive criticism and feedback from the teacher.




Source: Authors


2.     Determining the values ​​and social skills to discuss during the academic year 


    This step is crucial. Once you know students’ previous knowledge on diversity topics and their present level of behavior during the physical education class, it is necessary to determine the topics for discussion during the academic year (Figure 2). In this step, the needs of the students concerning the affective domain must be taken into consideration, as well as the time available to implement instruction during the school year. It is essential to understand that this strategy will be part of the physical education class. It does not intend to replace physical activity time with focusing instruction on the affective domain. In the next step, examples of how to carry out the discussion of values ​​without compromising the time for physical activity will be provided.


3.     Determining the strategies to teach the value of the day 


    In the book entitled: "Development of Appropriate Social Values ​​and Skills through Physical Education and Sport: A Guide for Teachers and Coaches", several strategies are provided which can be used for teaching values ​​and social skills in the physical education class (Samalot-Rivera, 2017). Table 2 provides a summary of these strategies. Each one of the proposed strategies can be done before and after class and should not interfere with physical activity time. However, there might be instances in which you will dedicate more time to talk and have a group discussion about the focus topic for that day.


Table 2. Strategies for teaching values ​​and social skills in Physical Education

  • Talks to raise awareness before and after class

  • Reflection time (in the classroom or as assignment/homework)

  • Counseling (individual or small groups to address specific behavior problems)

  • Inspirational Quotes (can be discussed before class or have posters posted in different places in the room/gym).

  • Behavior contracts (agreements between teacher and student which establish positive and negative consequences).

Source: Authors


4.     Checking students’ understanding and assess progress 


    It is extremely important to check if students have a clear understanding of ​​the concepts discussed in class. Much more important is to measure their progress and changes in behavior and moral principles during the academic year. For this, the assessment instruments mentioned and illustrated on the first step can be used as a post assessment. Other ideas on how to do this step are exit slips, questionnaires, small group discussion, or measurement of student’s behavior during class. Anyway that formally or informally the teacher can understand how students feel during the physical education class, can provide valuable information about their understanding and growth. The main purpose of this idea is to help students be more sensitive and understanding of each other uniqueness and promote equity, social justice, and inclusion.

Models to teach social skills and values through the Physical Education class 


    As mentioned, the physical education class is a favorable place for developing social skills and values. Through different types of activities and experiences, respect and social interaction can be promoted. For this, models and curricula can be implemented and used as a conceptual framework in the physical education class. The idea is that physical education teachers consider the suggested models when developing and implementing the diversity thematic academic calendar. Some of those models are: The Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility Model by Hellison (2011), the Fair Play Code of Conduct by Siedentop et al. (2020), & the Teaching Values and Appropriate Sport Behaviors through Physical Education and Sports by Samalot-Rivera, & Vidoni (2015). Literature has shown the effectiveness and benefits of implementing these models in the physical education class, especially concerning the development of the affective domain. By doing this, physical educators can help children and youth develop the social skills to be more accepting and tolerant (Samalot-Rivera, & Vidoni, 2015). Each of the mentioned models had been used by others and implemented in different physical education scenarios obtaining positive results. A brief description for each model will be provided on the next subtopics. 

- Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility 


    This model, designed by Don Hellison (2011), helps young people to develop values and social skills despite the negative influences of society. The intention is that they learn how to live by their values, understand their relationship with others, and respect the rights, feelings, and needs of others. Its purpose is to help professionals in areas related to physical activity to teach appropriate behaviors to their students/athletes. This model comprises 6 levels: 0-Irresponsibility, 1-Respect for the Rights and Feelings of Others, 2-Participation and Effort, 3-Self-direction, 4-Help and worry about others, 5-Out of the Gym. It is proposed to educate students using these levels, hoping they can improve from level 0 to 5 and transfer the learned skills at school to the community.


- Fair Play code of conduct 


    The Fair Play Code of Conduct is part of the Sports Education Model (Siedentop et al., 2020). The model proposes a sports teaching model that aims to provide a more authentic experience for students in the physical education class. This by providing students with diverse experiences in the sports environment in addition to being athletes, such as: scorekeepers, coaches, leaders, and referees. In this model, all students regardless of ability level, must be part of a team and experience all the various roles of a sport. One of the main objectives is the development of collaboration and leadership skills. Some appropriate conduct skills promoted through the Fair Play Code of Conduct are perseverance, teamwork, self-control, character, and responsibility towards teammates and opponents. The Fair Play Code of Conduct is used in this model as a central focus on developing appropriate sporting conduct.


- Appropriate sport behaviors through Physical Education and Sports 


    This curriculum is intended to provide physical educators and coaches with an appropriate set of social skills to teach students and athletes regardless of the outcome of their participation in the game or educational activity (Samalot-Rivera, & Vidoni, 2015). It consists of three units: appropriate skills when losing, appropriate skills when winning, and appropriate skills during the game. Each unit consists of five skills with a detailed plan and steps to follow for their teaching. The curriculum consists of a series of steps through which it is intended to teach each student holistically. The following steps are: 1. Definition of social skill, 2. Skill modeling, 3. Guided Practice, 4. Role Play, 5. Check for Understanding (assessment), 6. Homework, 7. Follow up. More information on these models can be found in Samalot-Rivera (2013).



    Educating in values is every teacher's responsibility and an essential part of an integral education. The compromise that educators assume consists in educating students to become more independent, responsible, and well-rounded citizens (Sanchez-Pato et al., 2008; López, & Saneleuterio, 2019). Further, teachers, including physical educators, should guide students to achieve their highest potential, including the development of social skills and values (Maslow, 1970; Hellison, 2011; Vidoni, & Ulman, 2012; Samalot-Rivera, & Vidoni, 2015; Samalot-Rivera et al., 2017; Samalot-Rivera, 2017; Stuhr et al., 2018). Likewise, physical educators are responsible for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. (Hodge et al., 2017)


    Training to identify situations where students demonstrate negative behaviors towards others and strategies for correcting them must be provided to every physical educator. The authors encourage teachers to study the concepts and strategies presented in this article and encourage using an educational framework that promotes inclusion, respect, and acceptance of all students regardless of their uniqueness. The authors also encourage physical educators to consider using a thematic academic calendar focused on diversity to shape their students' behaviors to treat everyone with respect and dignity.




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Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 27, Núm. 298, Mar. (2023)