The Influence of Gender-Related Beliefs and Conceptions of Ability on Women Learning the Hockey Wrist Shot

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of beliefs about gender appropriateness and conceptions of ability on perceived and actual competence and patterns of behavior during practice of the hockey wrist shot. Sixty-eight undergraduate women formed four treatment conditions based on their beliefs about gender appropriateness and conceptions of ability. Four teachers taught across the treatment conditions for a total of 16 learning groups. Data were collected through a three-part questionnaire and from audio-video taping of the entire episode to ascertain the participants competency beliefs, effort, and performance. Gender appropriateness impacted the participants' perceptions of competence and actual performance in the study, while beliefs about conceptions of ability did not produce a significant difference. This study reaffirms that educators must work diligently to combat the stereotypical beliefs many hold with respect to the gender appropriateness of physical activities.

Key words: competence, effort, performance


A number of motivational theories and methodologies have been used to explain achievement behaviors, and much has been learned about how students' cognitive processes impact and enhance their motivation, persistence, and, ultimately, achievement. Most notable have been the social cognitive theories that link perceived competence to achievement. Perceived competence refers to how well one perceives his or her ability or adequacy to confront a particular task or perform role-appropriate behavior (Nicholls & Miller, 1984; Treasure & Roberts, 1995). Evidence indicates that perceived competence is amendable to intervention (Goodway & Rudisill, 1996; Goodway, Rudisill, & Blume, 1995; Rudisill & Goodway, 1996). While a great deal of research has shown that perceived competence strongly mediates conceptions about one's ability to learn (Nicholls, 1984), less is known about how the construct affects the actual ability to learn.

Bandura's (1986) concept of self-efficacy provides a theoretical framework for examining the process whereby social cognitive variables mediate patterns of behaviors that determine whether individuals achieve. Self-efficacy can be defined as a specific kind of perceived competence; specifically it is an individual's belief or confidence that she or he can effectively use his or her ability in a specific situation. According to theoretical predictions, a high level of self-efficacy increases the likelihood that individuals will engage in behaviors to facilitate achievement, such as attending, using strategies, exerting effort, and working at a challenging level. Conversely, low levels of self-efficacy are associated with a pattern of behavior that decreases. the likelihood individuals will learn or improve. Examples of such actions are withdrawing effort in the face of difficulty and avoiding challenge. Bressen and Weiss (1982) argued that given appropriate skills and incentives, participation choice, effort, and persistence will be positively affected by increased levels of self-efficacy.

One condition that seems to increase a student's expectations for success in a specific domain is the gender appropriateness of the activity (Harrison, Lee, & Belcher, 1997; Lee, Fredenburg, Belcher, & Cleveland, 1999; Lirgg, George, Chase, & Ferguson, 1996). Consistent trends regarding gender appropriateness have been addressed in the literature as sex typing of physical activity choices (Clifton & Gill, 1994; Csizma, Wittig, & Schurr, 1988; Kane & Snyder, 1989; Lee, et al., 1999; Lirgg; 1992; Matteo, 1986; Metheny, 1968). Findings clearly indicate that sex-typed activities can mediate gender differences in ability perceptions and, consequently, self-efficacy levels, with men reporting more confidence on masculine-typed activities and women reporting more confidence on feminine-typed activities (Clifton & Gill, 1994; Lirgg, 1991; Sanguinetti, Lee, & Nelson, 1985). …