Tara Blackshear on new publication, research on equitable experiences for Black students

Professor aims to do more for Black youth in K–12 school settings

By Phaedran Linger '22 and Bethany Pace on April 6, 2022


Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Tara Blackshear remembers the joy of attending P.E. classes when she was younger and participating in sports, which led her to study physical education in college.

She still carries this passion for helping young people excel in health, physical activity and education. Blackshear wanted to use her experiences as a Black woman to push the physical education field to be a safe and more inclusive space for Black students.

Now, she is proud to be publishing a new book, Critical Race Studies in Physical Education, alongside co-author Brian Culp of Kennesaw State University.

The book is intended to be a resource for P.E. teachers in the development of equitable curriculum and teaching practices. Through case studies, readers develop an understanding of crucial issues that Black students face in P.E. and learn culturally competent classroom strategies.

Below, Blackshear shares what inspired her research and why it is so important.

How have your experiences influenced your research focus?

My parents have had a significant impact on how I approach my work. They were my first educators who instilled pride, leadership and confidence and demonstrated how to fight for social justice. I also had phenomenal P.E. teachers and coaches who fostered my love for physical activity and sport.

Another influence was attending Florida A&M University, which is a historically Black university. I had Black women professors in health and physical education who served as role models who supported me in and out of school.

What are your favorite courses to teach each term?

I enjoy teaching Physical Fitness Testing & Assessment in Physical Education, Introduction to Physical Education, Motor Behavior and Teaching Physical Education in Secondary Schools. I can provide students with authentic experiences across diverse settings. These courses help students understand why teachers engage in certain practices and how to create culturally responsive and safe environments for all children.

What inspired the development of this book—its content and contributors?

Brian Culp and I have worked together on projects in the past, given our shared experiences as physical educators and professors in teacher education programs. We also have had to navigate American life as Black people.

After our publication, Transforming PETE’s initial standards: Ensuring social justice for Black students in physical education, we knew we needed to do more for Black youth in K–12 school settings. Furthermore, there were no books in physical education that centered Black youth, so there was a need. Lastly, most of the health, physical activity and education work that focuses on Black youth are not led by Black scholars and tend to view students from a racist perspective, using deficit narratives and approaches. We offer a holistic view of the Black experience in America.

What are the overarching messages you hope Critical Race Studies in Physical Education drives home?

I hope the book dismantles the dehumanizing experiences that many Black students encounter, thus elevating their humanity so they can fully experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”