Activity Choice and Title IX

Article excerpt

It seems that nothing stays the same anymore except, perhaps, a good cup of coffee, a loaf of homemade bread, and secondary physical education. While our world is in a constant state of change, many secondary physical education programs in schools throughout the country have remained virtually the same for more than 50 years. Although the outer cover of physical education has improved and may "look good on paper," this external guise has not affected the innards of many secondary physical education programs. Yes, there are those states, districts, schools, and individual physical educators who have made positive changes in standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices; however, the majority of secondary physical education departments still host a "one size fits all" program, whereby all students participate in the same traditional activities in the same, traditional, command style of teaching.

A few students in my secondary methods class would argue with my opinion: they see change taking place in some of the schools where they are assigned as part of their internship. The change they observe is the scheduling of single-sex physical education classes, and they see this as a positive improvement. They agree that students placed in single-sex classes are more engaged and motivated to participate in the activities and, most important, demonstrate fewer behavior issues compared to students who are enrolled in coed classes. The observations my students have made while working within single-sex classes are not new. A wide range of interesting research has addressed similar issues for both coed and single-sex physical education, whether it be related to the teacher or to the student (Gabbei, 2004; Gabbei & Mitchell, 2001; McCaughtry, 2004; McKenzie, Prochaska, Sallis, & LaMaster, 2004; Osborne, Bauer, & Sutliff, 2002; Silverman, 1993; Treanor, Graber, Housner, & Wiegand, 1998). The January 1999 JOPERD Issues question also addressed this subject.

My students' suggestion of single-sex classes as an avenue for change in secondary physical education leads to interesting discussions during class. It is not until I remind them of Title IX that they begin to rethink their initial perceptions of single-sex classes. Since the inception of Title IX in 1972, secondary-level physical education programs must allow for equal access and opportunities to physical education activities for both sexes. Although the schools in our area that allow single-sex classes may create a more motivating and engaging environment (according to my students), they are not allowing equal opportunities for all students. For example, while some girls enrolled in a high school physical education program may want to learn and play flag football and a select group of boys may want to improve their fitness through step aerobics, they cannot. These students are enrolled in single-sex classes, and those activities are not taught to each gender.

As our class discussions explore the pros and cons of single-sex and coed physical education classes, the dialogue ultimately leads back to factors that affect student motivation and one other central theme--choice. Allowing for activity choices within a curriculum enables students to select and engage in activities that are more interesting to them. Students are more motivated to learn and remain engaged when the activity holds value and meaning (Chen, 1996; Wigfield & Eccles, 2001). The concept of choice is not new. In 1950, James Curtis of Stanford University indicated that offering a wide variety of activities that students could engage in by choice was one of the easy solutions to physical education problems. Even today, the suggestion of choice within physical education programs remains a strong recommendation in several secondary methods textbooks (e.g., Darst & Pangrazi, 2006; Himberg, Hutchinson, & Rousell, 2003).

Offering activity choices in physical education programs not only benefits students, it allows teachers to instruct within their areas of interest and expertise. …