Do Competitive Activities Influence Middle School Physical Education Students' Attitudes and Perceptions?

Article excerpt

What Was the Question?

Bernstein, Phillips, and Silverman (2011) examined the attitudes and perceptions of middle school students toward competitive activities in physical education. Specifically, the authors qualitatively explored the manner in which students enjoyed competitive activities and the role that student skill level played in their overall enjoyment of physical education.

What Was Done?

The researchers observed 24 students during their physical education classes. Of the 10 boys and 14 girls that participated in the study, 11 were highly skilled, 11 were moderately skilled, and 2 were low skilled. The participants were selected from one public urban school and five private urban schools. In interviews, the participants answered questions in six main categories: background information (e.g., grade, age), introduction (e.g., questions regarding general activities the participants did or did not like), perception of activities presented in physical education (e.g., questions on what activities were offered in their physical education classes), perception of skill level (e.g., how does your teacher help you do the activity better? How do you know when you have improved in activity?), perception of competition (e.g., questions asked to define competition, winning, and losing), and perception of competition in physical education class (e.g., How are the teams picked? When playing, does everyone cooperate?). The authors also took field notes and compared them to the information from the interviews to develop themes that represented the findings of the study.

What Was Found?

Three themes emerged during data analysis: (1) having fun in competitive activities in physical education class, (2) not all students are developing skill during competitive activities, and (3) the structure of competitive activities affects students' experience. Highly skilled participants tended to indicate that they had fun, but they often felt the games were not very competitive. Moderately skilled participants had fun as well, but they felt that the activities were challenging. Although there were only two low-skilled participants, these students indicated that they had fun, but they highlighted cooperation as the key element for their perception of fun. …