Quantitative Analysis of Students' Reasons for Nonsuiting and Support of Policy Change at One Urban Middle School

By Kahan, David; Graham, Kathy | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, December 2013 | Go to article overview
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Quantitative Analysis of Students' Reasons for Nonsuiting and Support of Policy Change at One Urban Middle School


Kahan, David, Graham, Kathy, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Purpose: Physical activity participation in physical education is compromised when students nonsuit. We investigated: (a) reasons for nonsuiting/support of policy change and whether they differed by gender, ethnicity, or grade; and (b) the likelihood of nonsuiting based on the same demographics. Method: Participants (N = 627) were 6th and 7th graders attending 1 urban middle school located in San Diego, CA. Students completed a questionnaire composed of 4 demographic items, level of agreement with 15 reasons for nonsuiting, and level of support of 6 proposed policy changes. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were used to classify reasons for nonsuiting items and policy change items. Demographic differences among resultant factor scores and individual items were analyzed using t tests. Associations between factors/items and nonsuit frequency and demographics were analyzed using multinomial logistic regression. Results: Girls, Latinos, and 7th graders were more likely habitual nonsuits ([greater than or less than] 4 nonsuits) compared with their respective counterparts. Statistically significant factor scores (reasons for nonsuiting; emotional excuses, utilitarian excuses) were higher among habitual nonsuits but were not different based on gender, grade, and ethnicity. Seventh graders and girls had statistically significantly higher policy change factor scores compared with their respective counterparts. Conclusion: Acting on student input toward reformulating suiting-out policy as well as addressing emotional excuse reasons, which are primarily under teacher control, may result in lower incidence of habitual nonsuiting.

Keywords: factor analysis, physical education, secondary education, uniform

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Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.

(Henry David Thoreau, 1854, para. 36)

A mere 12 years after Thoreau authored this quote, California became the first state to mandate school physical education (PE). It is imaginable that students of that time obeyed suiting-out rules while withholding objections to this enduring class routine. Formal research on suiting out has been generally descriptive in nature and takes one of two forms: (a) questionnaires in which feelings about suiting out for PE are quantified and ranked against other class characteristics, and (b) in-depth qualitative inquiry whereby teachers and students are observed and questioned regarding suiting-out policies and routines.

Strand and Scantling (1994) found that 80% of nearly 1,000 secondary students believed that proper athletic wear should be required for PE; however, they listed it among a distinct second tier of attributes that students thought should be used among grading criteria. Among 500 teens, suiting out for class was the third (7%) most prevalent thing they disliked about PE (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2000). A similar pattern was observed among more than 600 middle school students, whose dislike of suiting out for PE ranked second among eight choices (Ryan, Fleming, & Maina, 2003).

Qualitative accounts of suiting-out phenomena rarely stand alone in the literature. Instead they are more likely part of broader studies of class ecologies and rules, routines, and expectations (RRE). O'Sullivan and Dyson (1994) examined the RRE of 11 high school teachers in urban and suburban school districts. Teachers were observed at the start of the school year spending up to 4 days addressing policies and procedures associated with suiting out (~100 of 275 RRE initiated and rehearsed). Nonsuiting thresholds associated with escalating negative consequences varied across teachers as did the consequences themselves: within a specific lesson (e.g., sitting, assisting with equipment or scoring, writing reports, running) and outside of it (e.g., detention, parental notification, course failure). At one middle school, teachers taught and enforced an elaborate suiting-out routine with no espoused reason other than it being the way things were always done (Oslin, 1994).

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