The purpose of the study was to determine the attitudes of middle school students toward their physical education teacher(s) and physical education class and relate the findings to a similar study with high school students (Rice, 1988). In addition, student's gender and race were examined with relationship to their attitudes toward physical education teacher(s) and physical education class. Participants selected consisted of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students (N=611) from one urban and two rural middle schools. Participants were asked to complete a 46-item questionnaire regarding students' likes and dislikes about their physical education teacher(s) and class. The results indicated that middle school students enjoyed having a variety of activities (83%), liked the teacher(s) (80%), and had fun (79%) in their physical education class and disliked brief class periods (38%) and dressing out (27%). Qualities middle school students liked about their teacher(s) are that they have good physical skills (76%) and are friendly (75%) while they disliked that they cannot relate to students (21%) and they are partial to skilled students (20%). When ranked, attitude findings of middle school students in this study and high school students in the Rice (1988) study show some strong associations. Gender and race variables indicated very strong associations in response to student likes and dislikes of physical education teacher(s) and classes.
The study of attitudes lies at the core of social psychology. Although there is no consensus among social scientists regarding the definition of attitude, most agree that the effect for or against is the critical component of the attitude concept. In 1980, Fishbein and Ajzen indicated that the concept of attitude "is characterized by an embarrassing degree of ambiguity and confusion" (p.1). People's attitudes are developed and expressed as behaviors in a context that is social; it contains other people who are actually present or who are invisibly present in the social norms that define social groups to which we do or do not belong (Terry & Hogg, 2000). The development of attitudes is important because teachers, coaches, and others must consider attitude everyday as they evaluate and judge the potential of others (Silverman & Subramaniam, 1999).
Attitude may be defined as the end product of the socialization process and significantly influences our response to cultural products, to other people, and to groups of people. Safrit and Wood (1995) stated, "an attitude is a feeling one has about a specific attitude object, such as a situation, a person, or an activity" (p.23). To varying degrees, attitudes tell us what sort of people we are and what sort of people others are. Attitudes can be important markers of the defining attributes of identity. The strength of an attitude depends upon: 1) the type of experience that person has had with a situation; the more direct the experience, the stronger the attitude; and 2) the number of times the attitude has been expressed (Gordon, 1991). In regard to attitudes toward physical education, many various groups and consumers of physical education programs have been studied in several contexts over the years (Stewart, Green & Huelskamp, 1991).
Contextual factors within physical education consistently account for a large part of the variance in students' perception of the subject matter (Silverman & Subramaniam, 1999). Teaching methods and curriculum designs may influence students' attitudes in either positive or negative ways. Physical education teachers can have a very powerful influence in determining student attitude toward physical education (Figley, 1985, Luke & Sinclair, 1991). Developing positive attitudes toward physical activity has historically been a goal of physical education programs (Siedentop, 2000). Carlson (1995) found in her study of junior and senior high school students that the majority of students had positive views concerning physical education even though many of the students did feel that they were alienated from the class. …