Teaching for Gender Equity in Physical Education: A Review of the Literature

Article excerpt

Abstract

This review is an examination of selected literature from the past thirty years on gender equity in physical education. It is organized in terms of (1) defining the theoretical framework of gender equity, (2) the origins of gender equity in physical education from Title IX legislation, (3) the influence of teacher behavior and the curriculum in providing an equitable class environment, and (4) the applications and implications of gender equity for the physical education practitioner. Despite the well-developed research in the field of physical education about the prevalence of gender inequities exhibited by teachers, there are a few recent research studies in which the authors have failed to show this inequitable treatment. As research has progressed in this area, it is important to note that teachers may be improving in the area of equitable interactions with students of different genders. This review concludes with some suggestions for further research in the area of teaching for gender equity in physical education.

Introduction

Life in a physical education class can best be conceptualized as a complex web of interactions, which includes a teacher's behavior toward his/her students (LaFrance, 1985). Interactions between teachers and students in physical education are affected by such variables as: verbal behaviors, perceived differences in physical ability, teaching styles and strategies, class management, and curricular issues. When these variables are affected by whether a student is a female or a male, the interactions become gender interactions.

The purpose of this literature review is to examine the physical education literature from the past thirty years relative to gender interactions between teachers and students. It is organized in terms of (1) defining the theoretical framework of gender equity, (2) the origins of gender equity in physical education from Title IX legislation, (3) the influence of teacher behavior and the curriculum in providing an equitable class environment, and (4) the applications and implications of gender equity for the physical education practitioner. The theoretical framework of this review is based on the prevalent theory that teachers are usually unaware of their gender-biased behaviors, and that these behaviors are mostly unintentional (American Association of University Women [AAUW], 1992; Mitchell, Bunker, Kluka, & Sullivan, 1995; Sadker & Sadker, 1994; Shakeshaft, 1986). Shakeshaft suggested that this lack of awareness perpetuates the male model of schooling. In addition, Sadker and Sadker (1994) found, through their numerous studies, that female teachers are just as biased against girls as male teachers. Other researchers have shown that unintentional bias undermines the self-esteem and career ambitions of female students (Ambrose, 1996; Sprague & Edstrom, 2000).

One obstacle in achieving gender equity is proving to teachers that they treat girls and boys differently. There is general agreement in the literature that socialization affects how teachers interact with students. The AAUW (1992) has shown through several research studies that teachers are usually willing to change their behavior when they become aware of their own gender biases. Raising teacher awareness of their own gender biases may be accomplished through pre-service or in-service gender equity training programs, or through self-reflection. In 1995, Mitchell et al. issued a challenge to physical educators to become more conscious of the gender bias in their classes, because it undermines the entire field of teaching physical education. Since a lack of awareness seems to be related to the perpetuation of gender bias in physical education teachers, it is important to review the research which outlines the various teacher behaviors that affect the existence of gender bias in physical education classes.

From past literature, it is clear that both gender equity and gender bias are manifested in a variety of ways in the educational environment. …