Middle School Students’ Perceptions of Physical Education: A Qualitative Look

in Journal of Teaching in Physical Education
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Purpose: Existing research suggests that students’ attitudes toward physical education are positive through Grade 5, but become less positive as grade levels increase; this research is, however, missing student voice. The purpose of this study was to further understand why students’ attitudes have been shown to decrease. Methods: Twenty-six focus group interviews (students N = 65) were conducted over 2 years to discover what was influencing attitudes from fifth to eighth grade. Results: Three themes emerged: (a) curriculum leads to decreases in student attitudes (subthemes repetitive and boring, an overemphasis on competition, and fitness testing activities—what’s the purpose and why am I on display?), (b) social factors impact attitude: sweating and changing, and (c) physical education assumptions, the easy “A” (subthemes: perceptions of physical education teachers and the easy “A”). Conclusion: Allowing students to explain the reasons for decreases in attitudes contributes to improving the teaching and learning process.

Phillips is with the Department of Health Professions, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. Marttinen is with the College of Education and Human Development, George Mason University, Manassas, VA. Mercier and Gibbone are with the Department of Health Science, Physical Education, and Human Performance Sciences, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY.

Phillips (Sharon.R.Phillips@hofstra.edu) is corresponding author.
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