The term social responsibility refers to an ethical ideology whereby organizations and individuals have an obligation to act in manners that benefit society. Models of social responsibility abound in various scientific domains, and in the field of sport and exercise psychology the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model has been developed to promote social responsibility in youth. In this entry, an overview of the TPSR model and examples of youth programs using TPSR are presented.
The TPSR model was initially developed in the early 1970s by Don Hellison from his work teaching physical education to inner-city youth in Portland, Oregon. More than 40 years of instruction and evaluation have led to the establishment of preferred practices that form the basic components of the model today. The fundamental purpose of the model is to provide a guiding framework for helping youth take responsibility for their own well-being and be sensitive to the well-being of others. TPSR is composed of five levels of responsibility, with each level having its own set of goals. The responsibilities are depicted as levels in order for instructors to implement them progressively during physical activity lessons.
The first level consists of introducing respect, which is viewed as the most important responsibility. Displaying respect, by minimizing abusive actions, solving disagreements calmly, and promoting inclusion, is considered necessary in order to protect the rights of all participants. As participants progress to other levels, respect is regularly revisited for participants to understand that it is the core responsibility. At the second level, the development of self-motivation is encouraged to help participants demonstrate sustained effort and persistence, try new things, and redefine how they view success. The third level involves self-direction, which is an advanced level of responsibility that builds on respect and motivation. Participants attain this level when they become more independent, implement their own personal physical activity programs, and are able to set and attain personal goals. The fourth level consists of helping others and exhibiting leadership. At this level, participants act in manners that are responsive to the well-being of others and do so without extrinsic reward, simply because it is the right thing to do. Achieving this level is difficult because participants must demonstrate leadership by taking away time from their own personal interests to help others have positive experiences. The final level of transference is achieved when participants apply responsibilities outside of the program and become role models for younger kids. The goal is to have participants test new approaches at school, work, and home using the competencies learned in the program.
To foster social responsibility, instructors are trained to work toward five goals. First, instructors develop solid instructor–participant relationships by recognizing participants’ individual strengths, listening to their opinions, and believing in their ability to make good decisions. Second, instructors integrate responsibilities into physical activity content for participants to learn through practice how to be socially responsible. The third, fourth, and fifth goals are, respectively, to empower participants (e.g., involvement in decision making and negotiations), promote reflection (e.g., group problem solving), and facilitate transfer (e.g., giving reminders, providing personal examples).
Five implementation strategies have been designed to structure physical activity lessons and put responsibilities into practice. First, relational time is allotted at the beginning of lessons, giving instructors opportunities to acknowledge the presence of participants, foster relationships, and thank participants for their contributions to the program. Second, awareness talks are performed to teach participants the five levels of responsibility, and activities are specifically planned to facilitate direct instruction. For example, to foster self-motivation, instructors ask volunteers to tell other participants what the program is about. Third, physical activity lessons take place, during which instructors integrate strategies to teach responsibility concepts to the participants in competitive and noncompetitive game options. For example, to promote inclusion, instructors tell participants to make a minimum number of passes to teammates during games like soccer and basketball before taking a shot on goal. Fourth, group meetings are organized, allowing participants to voice their opinions, problem solve, and reach decisions. For instance, if a participant has shown disrespect for others during an activity, that individual can negotiate the consequences of this action. Finally, participants are provided with reflection time to evaluate their attitudes and behaviors as they relate to the five responsibilities. This activity helps participants develop self-direction by allowing them to define success for themselves, work toward their own goals, and decide if they want to volunteer for teaching roles.
Physical activity programs based on TPSR have been implemented in a wide range of contexts in the United States as well as internationally in countries such as New Zealand, Great Britain, and Spain. Examples of programs designed for elementary school children include Project Effort, the Coaching Club, and the Energizers Club and generally, these programs were developed to foster resilience and social responsibility in underserved populations. Programs based on TPSR have also been developed for underserved middle and high school-age participants to keep them involved in productive activities. The Youth Leader Corps, Cross-Age Leadership Program, and Project Lead are examples of programs that have helped participants develop leadership, confidence, and problem-solving skills by teach younger children the responsibilities of the TPSR model.
Although interests in alternative activities and commitments to “real life” responsibilities have occasionally proven to be hindrances in having participants develop social responsibility, the TPSR model has generally been shown to be effective at facilitating the positive development of youth. The model serves as a useful framework to provide participants physical activity instruction that teaches them to take responsibility for their well-being and that of others.
- Hellison, D. (2003). Teaching responsibility through physical activity. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Hellison, D., & Walsh, D. (2002). Responsibility-based youth programs evaluation: Investigating the investigations. Quest, 54, 292–307.
- Schilling, T., Martinek, T., & Carson, S. (2007). Youth leaders’ perceptions of commitment to a responsibilitybased physical activity program. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78, 48–60.