Matthew Patey

Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Physical Education

First Advisor

Ali Brian


Students with disabilities participate in inclusive education, to some degree. Unfortunately, students with disabilities often feel feelings of marginalization, social isolation, failure, and othering. Students without disabilities graduating high school today are less empathic than students who graduated in the 1970’s. This dissertation delves into the empirical literature on how school-age students perceive inclusive physical education, through a systematic literature (Study 1), as well as how a students and adults in a high school perceive and experience an augmented physical education program, through an exploratory case study (Study 2).

In Study 1, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta- Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed. Author consensus on the databases, key terms, and inclusion criteria were used to identify relevant literature, which included 26 articles. A content analysis revealed four categories of articles. The categories were: 1. Instrument validation and innovation; 2. Effect of interventions on student attitudes and perspectives; 3. Classmates’ perceptions on including peers with disabilities; and 4. Students with disabilities perceptions on being included. Understanding students’ perceptions can improve inclusive practices in physical education. A physical education program may be “fully inclusive” physically (i.e., the built school environment) and fundamentally (i.e., pedagogic design), but not in reality. A physical education program that is determined to establish and sustain inclusivity embraces equity and diversity.

In Study 2, data were collected in a high school in Northern New England. Methods used were reflective journal, observations, fieldnotes, interviews, and sociograms. There were three major themes which emerged, along with eight sub-themes. The themes were: 1. Nurturing of a Program (planting the seed; all encompassing; behind the scenes; and branches of Unified), 2. Rooted Behavior and Relationships (spillover; and friendship) and 3. Turning a New Leaf (reflection; and personal growth). Understanding how an augmented physical education program is implemented in a school, how it is received by students, and how it is received by adults in the school, will inform other administration to implement augmented physical education program which is underpinned by inclusive philosophies and enrolls both students with and without disabilities, themselves. This program requires a champion and transactional support between students, administrators, teachers, and specialists for its sustainment. Both student and adults perceive immediate and lasting benefits stemming from participation in Unified programming.