The purpose of the study was to determine the attitudes of middle school students toward their physical education teacher(s) and physical education class and relate the findings to a similar study with high school students (Rice, 1988). In addition, student's gender and race were examined with relationship to their attitudes toward physical education teacher(s) and physical education class. Participants selected consisted of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students (N=611) from one urban and two rural middle schools. Participants were asked to complete a 46-item questionnaire regarding students' likes and dislikes about their physical education teacher(s) and class. The results indicated that middle school students enjoyed having a variety of activities (83%), liked the teacher(s) (80%), and had fun (79%) in their physical education class and disliked brief class periods (38%) and dressing out (27%). Qualities middle school students liked about their teacher(s) are that they have good physical skills (76%) and are friendly (75%) while they disliked that they cannot relate to students (21%) and they are partial to skilled students (20%). When ranked, attitude findings of middle school students in this study and high school students in the Rice (1988) study show some strong associations. Gender and race variables indicated very strong associations in response to student likes and dislikes of physical education teacher(s) and classes.
The study of attitudes lies at the core of social psychology. Although there is no consensus among social scientists regarding the definition of attitude, most agree that the effect for or against is the critical component of the attitude concept. In 1980, Fishbein and Ajzen indicated that the concept of attitude "is characterized by an embarrassing degree of ambiguity and confusion" (p.1). People's attitudes are developed and expressed as behaviors in a context that is social; it contains other people who are actually present or who are invisibly present in the social norms that define social groups to which we do or do not belong (Terry & Hogg, 2000). The development of attitudes is important because teachers, coaches, and others must consider attitude everyday as they evaluate and judge the potential of others (Silverman & Subramaniam, 1999).
Attitude may be defined as the end product of the socialization process and significantly influences our response to cultural products, to other people, and to groups of people. Safrit and Wood (1995) stated, "an attitude is a feeling one has about a specific attitude object, such as a situation, a person, or an activity" (p.23). To varying degrees, attitudes tell us what sort of people we are and what sort of people others are. Attitudes can be important markers of the defining attributes of identity. The strength of an attitude depends upon: 1) the type of experience that person has had with a situation; the more direct the experience, the stronger the attitude; and 2) the number of times the attitude has been expressed (Gordon, 1991). In regard to attitudes toward physical education, many various groups and consumers of physical education programs have been studied in several contexts over the years (Stewart, Green & Huelskamp, 1991).
Contextual factors within physical education consistently account for a large part of the variance in students' perception of the subject matter (Silverman & Subramaniam, 1999). Teaching methods and curriculum designs may influence students' attitudes in either positive or negative ways. Physical education teachers can have a very powerful influence in determining student attitude toward physical education (Figley, 1985, Luke & Sinclair, 1991). Developing positive attitudes toward physical activity has historically been a goal of physical education programs (Siedentop, 2000). Carlson (1995) found in her study of junior and senior high school students that the majority of students had positive views concerning physical education even though many of the students did feel that they were alienated from the class. Most studies concerning elementary school age children reflect a positive attitude toward physical education by students (Aicenena, 1991; Ratliffe, Imwold, & Conkell, 1994). Luke and Sinclair's investigation (1991), however, suggested that the physical educator is a more powerful determinant of negative attitudes than positive attitudes. The negative attitudes developed by the students may well be the result of several factors. For instance, boredom, repetition, and lack of meaningful work (Fox & Biddle, 1988; Rice, 1988) have been cited as being instrumental in producing dislikes of the subject. The competitive class environment has also resulted in some students disliking physical education (Portman, 1992; Robinson, 1990). Additional problems associated with the interaction between self-concept, self-esteem, and the social context of physical education have added in student dislike of the subject (Carlson, 1994; Figley, 1985; Fox, 1988; Luke & Sinclair, 1991; Macintosh & Albinson, 1982). The Luke study (1991) however, revealed that facilities were ranked at the bottom as determinants of children's attitudes toward physical education along with the behavior of the teacher and the perceived competence of the students. Patternson and Faucette (1990) studied whether students would have different attitudes toward physical activity if classes were taught by specialists as compared to nonspecialists. Student attitudes were found to be similar regardless of the specialty training of the teacher.
The type of curriculum used in physical education settings has shown to influence students' attitudes (Carlson, 1995; McKenzie, Alcaraz, & Sallis, 1994; Sanders & Graham, 1995; Solmon & Carter, 1995; Tjeerdsma, Rink, & Graham, 1994) and depending on the type, may lead to negative student sentiments toward physical education. Frequently, physical education curriculum has been designed to serve as a student recess or a recreational period with little consideration to student developmental and instructional needs. This typecast of physical education as "play time" is often accurate (Hill, 1991). Student objectives are often vague and the grading is commonly based on subjective criteria possibly leading students to believe physical education is not as important as other subjects.
A physical education curriculum focused on competition can also be detrimental to the development of positive attitudes toward physical education for some students (Carlson, 1995; Ennis, 1996). In general, physical education curriculum is dominated by traditional activities such as football, soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball that traditionally make up the after school athletic programs (Ross & Gilbert, 1985). These highly competitive sports typically identify participants as "winners" and "losers". The Council on Physical Education for Children (1992) deemed activities that label students as "winners" and "losers" as an inappropriate practice. Low achievers in virtually every school subject benefit more from a cooperative rather than a competitive approach (Slavin, 1989).
Limited research on student's attitudes towards physical education from a race and gender perspective reveals no significant difference at any grade level (Brustad, 1996; Quarterman, Harris & Chew, 1996; Stewart, Green & Huelskamp, 1991). Tannehill and Zakrajsek (1993), however, do suggest that Hispanic students attach more importance to physical education than any other racial group with African-American students attaching the lowest importance. A study that measured racial differences in preferences for physical education suggested that while both European Americans and African Americans students selected swimming as their most popular activity, their second choice of activities were dissimilar (Fleming, Mitchell, …