Attitudes toward Physical Education: A Study of High School Students from Four Countries-Austria, Czech Republic, England, and USA

Article excerpt

This study investigated the attitude toward physical education of 1107 high school students from four countries, Czech Republic, Austria, England, and the United States. Survey data were gathered and measured using the Adams Scale survey instrument (Adams, 1963). While the data revealed individual differences, the overall sample indicated a decidedly positive attitude toward physical education. Students from the Czech Republic had significantly higher attitude scores than both U.S. and English respondents (p < .001), and males showed a more favorable attitude toward physical education than females (p < .001). Several notable differences were also found when the combined effect of gender and country of origin was measured.

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The harmful consequences of the sedentary lifestyle adopted by a rapidly increasing segment of our population are apparent to even the casual observer. As Thompson (1998) made patently clear:

   Humans are designed and constructed
   for one thing--movement.
   Yet our society does everything it
   can to prevent movement. Our children
   have access to every
   "labor-saving" device that exists.
   They are not being saved at all, however,
   but rather being exposed to
   potential overweight, illness, and
   physiological deterioration (Thompson,
   1998, p. 69-70).

In 1987, Siedentop cautioned that high school physical education was an endangered species; a subject matter that might gradually become extinct in secondary curricula. He argued that an increasing lack of expectations for significant outcomes in high school physical education and, even more alarming, concern that students have stopped caring about physical education would bring about its demise. Physical educators have a duty to alter the expectations of high school students, but the best curricula and most heroic expectations will be ineffective if negative attitudes toward the course lead students to ignore its value. Attitude, then, is the agent that can change perceptions and the catalyst that can make physical education a positive educational experience. Although some of the researchers questioned the correlation between attitudes and actual behavior (LaPiere, 1934; Wicker, 1971) most researchers suggested that attitude and the individual's underlying belief system are considered the best indicators of the decisions people will make throughout their lives (Bandura, 1986; Dewey, 1933; and Pajares, 1992).

According to Nunnally (1978), "attitude" refers to a state of mind or feelings about particular social or physical objects such as significant people, social institutions, or physical activity. Identifying attitude as an important variable in the role and perceived importance of physical education dates to Alden's (1932) research into the attitudes of female university students and various aspects of their physical experiences. Later research efforts in the 1950's and 1960's determined that students generally had positive attitudes toward physical education (Broer, Fox, & Way, 1955; Brumback & Cross, 1965; Kappes, 1954).

More recently, Greenockle, Lee, and Lomax (1991) identified student attitudes at the middle school level as being strongly influenced by their peers and less positive than those of past students. Eighth grade students (13-14 years of age) were seen to be at the crucial incipient stage of dissatisfaction with physical education programs. The researchers catalogued a variety of negative student comments evidencing this growing dissatisfaction such as the "discomforts of exercise," "lack of choice of sports," the inconvenience of clothing changes, "getting sweaty," "messing up make-up," and getting "messed-up hair." Other research efforts suggest that as middle-school students matriculate to high school, these attitudes tend to become more negative and participation in physical activity declines. For example, Tannehill and Zakrajsek (1993) investigated middle school and high school students' attitudes toward physical education and found that while students imply that physical education was important to their overall education, they participated in competitive sports less frequently in high school than in middle school. …