How Do Low-Skilled Students View Physical Education Classes?

By Silverman, Stephen | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 1998 | Go to article overview

How Do Low-Skilled Students View Physical Education Classes?


Silverman, Stephen, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Students enter physical education classes with a wide range of motoric ability, and the disparity in student skill levels brings with it different experiences for students. The purpose of Portman's (1995) study was to describe the experiences of low-skilled sixth-grade students in physical education classes. Thirteen low-skilled students from four sixth-grade classes in three different school districts participated in this study. Interview and field observations were used to determine the experiences of the students in their physical education classes. The students were interviewed twice in small groups and once individually. The first group interview focused on obtaining general information about physical education class. The second group interview probed students' feelings of ability, success, failure, self-performance expectations, and expectations of others' skill level. Self-attributions of success and failure, and how students felt when faced with particular situations in physical education were the subjects of the individual interviews. In addition, field observation notes written by the researcher were used to gather information about low-skilled students' experiences. When analyzed, the data produced four categories that describe the experiences of participants: (a) I like physical education when I am successful, (b) I can't because I can't, (c) mostly nobody helps, and (d) mostly everyone yells at me.

With regard to the first theme, all students in this study liked physical education when they were successful. Success, however, was defined differently among participants. For some, success meant being able to perform activities that were familiar. Others associated success with experiencing immediate positive results or luck. Being able to succeed every day in their physical education class was far more important to these students than learning new skills.

The second category, "I can't because I can't," showed that the experiences of these low-skilled students in physical education were largely negative because of the predominance of unsuccessful experiences. Repeated unsuccessful and negative experiences make low-skilled students question their ability to perform in physical education. As a result of such experiences, low-skilled students often give up or stop trying. Other reasons for explaining failure in physical education were adverse criticism, perceived differential treatment of boys and girls by the teacher, and perceived inadequacy of the teacher to help them. …

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