A theoretical framework distinguishing meaning and meaningfulness guided this study of high school students’ conceptions of meaningfulness in physical education. A 9-dimensional meaningfulness construct was developed through analyzing former high school students’ (N = 35) oral reflection on physical education. A 9-dimensional meaningfulness scale was prepared and administered to high school students (N = 698). The principal component analysis reduced the students’ responses to a 6-dimensional construct: Social Bonding, Cultural Appreciation, Challenge, Tension Release, Fitness Development, and Self-Expression. The construct was modified through confirmatory factor analyses and had a Goodness of Fit Index of .91. The reconstruction demonstrated sophisticated internalization of perceived meaning by students. AMANOVA revealed that the students’ conceptions of meaningfulness differentiated (p < .05) based on gender, grade, and socioeconomic status. The findings suggest that a pluralistic perspective be considered in curriculum design, given the sophistication and differentiation of students’ conceptions of meaningfulness in physical education.
Ang Chen is with the Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education at Arizona State University, P.O. Box 870701, Tempe, Arizona 85287-0701.