Academic journal article Physical Educator

Physical Description and Job Attainment in Physical Education

Academic journal article Physical Educator

Physical Description and Job Attainment in Physical Education

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to investigate Tennessee principals' selection of physical education teacher applicants based on hypothetical descriptions of academic merit and physical appearance. A final sample of 139 of the 210 randomly selected school principals completed the survey, "Hiring the Physical Education Teacher." Results indicated that significantly overweight (20pounds above ideal weight) candidates were more likely to be eliminated from the applicant pool than slightly overweight (10 pounds above ideal weight) candidates (t [138] = 14.5, p<0.05). Further, binomial analyses revealed statistically significant differences (p<0. 01) between candidates when academic ranking was added as a descriptor. Specifically, an average GPA, slightly overweight candidate was more favored for the job than a below average GPA, good physical condition counterpart. Also, a significantly overweight applicant with an above average GPA was less favored for hiring when compared to an average GPA candidate with good physical condition. Overall, physical description/appearance influenced Tennessee principal's selections in hiring physical education teachers.


Each year, thousands of college students choose physical education as a major (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Unfortunately, the graduation requirements and field standards to which physical education teacher education (PETE) programs and students should abide are unresolved. One unresolved issue is whether teacher applicants' physical description, specifically bodyweight, is a characteristic that influences job attainment and the subsequent quality of physical education teaching.

The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (1995) has defined the characteristics of a physically educated person that should result from quality physical education and an active lifestyle. These characteristics consist of being physically fit due to regular physical activity, possessing skills for such participation, and valuing the effects of activity for a healthy lifestyle. Physical education professionals support these standards; however, these standards are more readily applied to the teaching audience (school children) rather than the teacher or teacher candidate (Shoemaker, 2000). This practice leads to the question of whether it is important for physical educators to be physical role models, as well as quality facilitators.

Melville and Maddalozzo (1988) found that school children were perceptive of a physical education instructor's physical appearance and thought an overweight instructor to be a poor role model and less influential than a thinner teacher. The cumulative influence of physical fitness or bodyweight on teacher effectiveness may, however, be limited. Bischoff, Plowman, and Lindenman (1988) concluded that a lack of fitness did not impair teachers' job performances. In this study, participating teachers had varying levels of fitness, but their quality of teaching was comparable and teacher fitness level was found to be an insignificant factor in teacher-student interaction in the classroom. Also, Chaikin, Gillen, Derlega, Heinen, and Wilson (1978) found that a teacher's physical appearance did not influence students' test performances or willingness to learn, but did have a varying effect on teacher likeability. This data represents the issues both for and against physical fitness and appearance standards for physical educators.

Positions relative to these issues are represented in the philosophies and practices of PETE programs, which reflect various beliefs about the implementation and use of fitness testing and standards for majors. Three general categories characterize PETE programs: 1) a basic curriculum of performance and academic classes; 2) the combination of academic requirements and experiencing the standards that future students will be expected to meet in physical education class; and 3) the mixture of academics and successful fitness test performances as graduation requirements (Melville & Jones, 1990). …

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