An Analysis of Middle School Students Physical Education Physical Activity Preferences

Article excerpt


The idea of providing student's choice over curricular offerings in physical education has gained a considerable amount of attention in recent years. The purpose of this study was to determine which physical education activities middle school students would like to have included in the yearly curriculum and if there were differences in responses based on gender, student motor skill competency, grade level and participation in physical activities outside of regular school hours. Participants included 881 students enrolled in physical education at two middle schools in one school district. Students completed a survey that included a demographic section, a list of activities pertinent to middle school physical education, and two additional lines so students would have the option of writing in additional activities of interest. One teacher from each school administered all of the surveys for their school and ranked students according to their motor skill competency. Of the 33 activities listed on the survey Chi-square analysis revealed significant differences for 21 activities by gender, 10 activities by skill level 11 activities by grade, and 12 activities by after school sport/activity participation. Students wrote in an additional 30 activities not included on the survey checklist. Results demonstrate the importance of considering multiple factors including gender, skill grade, and after school sport/activity participation when making decisions on curricular offerings for middle school physical education.


In order to strengthen the presence of physical education in schools, physical educators should consider the interests and needs of students when selecting activity units (Greenwood & Stillwell, 2001; McKenzie, Sallis, Broyles, Zive, Nader, Berry, & Brennan, 2004; Pate, Dowda, O'Neill, & Ward, 2007). That is, physical education is more likely to survive if it includes activities that students find desirable since curriculum has been found to be the most important consideration for both males and females in determining their attitude toward physical education (Luke & Sinclair, 1991). There are several factors that may influence student selection of specific activities. These factors include societal and environment influences, gender, student age, student skill level, and level of student physical activity outside of school hours (Eyler, Nanney, Brownson, Lohman, & Haire-Joshu, 2006; Fromal, Formankova, & Sallis, 2002; Hill & Cleven, 2005; Sallis, Prochaska, & Taylor, 2000).

Societal and environmental influences may affect students' choices of activities by directing youth to mainstream activities and limiting exposure to other activities (Young, Felton, Grieser, Elder, Johnson, Lee, et al., 2007). As a result, students may select specific activities because they are most familiar with them. This influence may also be reinforced by media focus on specific activities, ethnic or cultural values, or positive role models associated with specific physical activities (Bruce & Saunders, 2005). Other factors that contribute to students' choices are availability of equipment, facilities, expertise of physical education teachers, and previous involvement on school or recreational athletic teams (Hill & Cleven, 2005).

Gender may also influence students' choices of activities. Bradley, McMurray, Harrell, and Deng (2000) reported that middle school girls prefer noncompetitive or individual activities, whereas middle school boys tend to choose traditional team sports. Hill and Cleven (2005), found, in comparing the activity selections of 9th grade boys and girls, that girls were more likely to select individual and non contact activities such as swimming, volleyball, contemporary dance, aerobics, gynmastics, and rope jumping while boys more frequently selected contact and power activities such as weight training, floor/street hockey, and football. …


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