Academic journal article High School Journal

A Comparison of Students' Choices of 9th Grade Physical Education Activities by Ethnicity

Academic journal article High School Journal

A Comparison of Students' Choices of 9th Grade Physical Education Activities by Ethnicity

Article excerpt

The purposes of this study were to determine physical education activity preferences of 9th grade students in a southern California school district and to compare preferences by ethnicity. Results indicated that basketball, football, bowling, softball/baseball, swimming, and volleyball were the most preferred activities. These preferences may be based on socio-economic status, racial stereotyping, perceived dominance of particular sports by a culture, and role modeling within a culture. There were significant differences for 13 of the 37 activities listed when responses were compared by ethnicity. Results suggest that, given the importance of curriculum design in engaging students, physical education teachers with diverse ethnic class compositions have a more challenging task than teachers of classes with more homogeneous ethnic groupings. It is recommended teachers survey students yearly for their activity preferences to identify units that appeal to a wide section of students. Physical education teachers are also encouraged to allow their students the choice to participate in units taught by other physical education teachers during the same class period. Further research should seek to identify why various students of various ethnic groups prefer specific physical education activities.


Physical education has the potential to provide students with a variety of benefits including positive social interaction, mental challenge, and activity and fitness enhancement. Unfortunately, there appears to be a trend toward reduced emphasis on physical education in K-12 schools as illustrated by fewer numbers of students who are being required to take daily physical education (LaMaster & Lacy, 1993; Lowry, Wechsler, Kann & Collins, 2001). Tannehill (1998) has described this scenario as a marginalization or step by step elimination of physical programs from school curriculums.

In order to solidify the presence of physical education in schools, it is important to not only argue for space in the overall school curriculum, but to also offer a curriculum that matches the interests and meets the needs of the students (Hopper, 1980). That is, physical education stands a better chance of survival if it includes activities that students find attractive and personally valuable (Cothran, 2001; Greenwood & Stillwell, 2001; Hopper, 1980; Ishee, 2002; Kovar, Ermler, Mehrof & Napper-Owen, 2001; Napper-Owen, Kovar, Ermler & Mehrhof, 1999; Silverman, & Bubramaniam, 1999; Strand & Scantling, 1994; Tannehill, Romar, O'Sullivan, England & Rosenberg, 1994; Tannehill, 1998). Luke & Sinclair (1991) surveyed 11th graders in four large metropolitan schools in Canada found that curriculum was the number one consideration for students in regards to how they rated their physical education classes. This finding underscores the importance of considering the preferences of students prior to designing the yearly physical education curriculum.

By examining the preferences of students, it is hoped that a clear picture will develop regarding the curriculum that will best address the needs of diverse groups. However, in schools with students from more than one ethnic group, it may be difficult to offer activities that appeal to most students (Doscheff, 2000).

Kovar et al. (2001) found that cultural and ethnic norms may influence students' selections of activities. While both African American and White high school students he surveyed indicated that swimming was their first choice of activity, differences arose in their remaining selections of activities. Specifically, a higher percentage of African American students than other ethnic groups indicated a preference for basketball. In addition, a higher percentage of Asian American students, than other ethnic groups, indicated a preference for volleyball. These findings are consistent with other research that has documented ethnic differences in activity choice (Fleming, Mitchell, Gorecki, & Coleman, 1997; Tannehill & Zakrajsek, 1993). …

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