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An exploratory study of Egan’s four stages of educational development and their application to curriculum design in physical education Schueler, Annemarie

Abstract

This study explored the possibility of structuring physical education curriculum utilizing Kieran Egan's educational development theory. It began with the premise that too often eclectic or non-theoretical approaches to curriculum design have resulted in fragmentary, inconsistent, activity programs. Although recent approaches to program planning at both the elementary secondary level are characterized by a great deal of diversity, they seem to lack an educational developmental perspective. The study examines the role developmental theories have played in physical education curriculum design and in particular that of Piaget"s theory of cognitive development. Research is cited to indicate the limitations of Piaget's developmental theory, in terms of designing physical education.curricula. Egan's theory of educational development is articulated and a comparison is drawn between a psychological theory such as Piaget's and an educational theory such as Egan's. Egan's original and comprehensive educational theory outlines four developmental stages: mythic, romantic, philosophic, and ironic. The stages span the years from 4 to maturity. Educational aspects of development such as learning and motivation are dealt with through the characteristics of different stages which in turn lead directly to principles for organizing curriculum. With its educational orientation, the theory focuses upon four questions to which educators are interested in finding answers: What should our end-product be like? What should we teach? When should we teach? How should we teach? His theory is pervaded with the question of the appropriateness of structuring subject matter to each developmental stage and with making connections from stage to stage to provide optimal growth through the entire educational process. Utilizing the principles derived from each of the four stages, the study explores ways of structuring physical education curriculum. Application of the theory at each stage is discussed in terms of three broad activity areas: dance, gymnastics, and games. Egan's theory provides us with guidelines as to how best we might go about structuring activities and which particular activities might be most educationally suitable at each stage. In summary, the study suggests that Egan's theory of educational development can offer the physical education curriculum planner a more meaningful educational-oriented paradigm from which to plan programs from kindergarten to grade twelve. Utilizing the main principles of Egan's theory will help structure more coherent developmental programs in the three domains of: affective development, cognitive development, and psychomotor development. Egan's theory appears to open new doors for designing physical education curricula.

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