Middle School Students' Attitudes toward Physical Education

Article excerpt

What Was the Question?

Student learning and achievement can be influenced by a variety of factors. Students are more likely to have a positive attitude about a subject and more likely to learn when they are in an environment where they feel comfortable and confident. This is important, since students' experiences in physical education can positively or negatively influence their immediate and long-term participation in physical activity. Boys have been found to be more positive about physical education than girls, and positive attitudes toward physical education appear to decline with age. However, there have been mixed findings when researchers have compared students' attitudes toward physical education and physical activity as a function of grade level. These mixed findings may have been the result of developing attitudinal measures without consideration of attitudinal theory. Consequently, the purposes of this study (Subramaniam & Silverman, 2007) were (a) to investigate the attitudes of middle school students toward physical education, (b) to determine whether attitudes were differentiated by gender, (c) to determine whether differences existed on subject matter by grade, and (d) to assess whether gender and grade level influenced student attitudes toward physical education.

What Was Done?

The study participants consisted of 995 middle school students (46% female, 54% male) between the ages of 12 and 14 (grades 6 through 8). Sixty-three percent of participants were Caucasian, 26 percent were African American, and 11 percent were classified as "other." They were selected from three schools that followed a multi-activity curriculum designed to meet state requirements for physical education. Following parental and participant consent, an attitude measurement was administered that assessed attitudes toward physical education through the domains of "enjoyment" and "perceived usefulness." The enjoyment domain is an affective component that assesses the degree of emotional feeling or attraction toward an attitude object. The perceived usefulness domain is a cognitive component that assesses beliefs and characteristics about an attitude object. In this study, the attitude object was physical education. The measurement used a five-point Likert scale that had been previously tested for reliability and validity.

What Was Found?

The participants in general were found to have moderately positive attitudes toward physical education. …