Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Students' Perceptions of the Physical Education Class Environment for Boys and Girls and the Perceived Motivational Climate

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Students' Perceptions of the Physical Education Class Environment for Boys and Girls and the Perceived Motivational Climate

Article excerpt

Recent social cognitive approaches in physical education (Duda, 1996) highlight the role of two different goals, namely task (Nicholls, 1989) or learning (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) and ego (Nicholls, 1989) or performance (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) in children's achievement motivation. When a task or learning goal is salient, success is defined as personal improvement; youngsters ascribe high value to effort and skill development and are highly motivated without external rewards, because they perceive accomplishment as an end in itself. When there is an emphasis on ego or performance goals, success is defined as outperforming others or a high normative performance; youngsters are particularly concerned about the level of their ability, and they see accomplishment as a means to an end, such as social status.

Individual differences exist in the proneness for task and ego involvement (Duda, 1996). Goal orientations also differ as a function of situational demands (Ames, 1992). Some class environments place greater emphasis on effort, task involvement, and mastery and others on social comparison and the level of ability. Accordingly, an instrument was developed to assess students' perceptions of the motivational climate in their physical educational classes (Papaioannou, 1994). Research (Duda, 1996; Papaioannou, 1995a) showed that the perception of a mastery-oriented climate was positively associated with indexes of students' motivation in physical education, such as effort and intrinsic interest in the physical education lesson, but the perception of a performance-oriented climate was not.

Most of the goal perspective literature has focused on children's achievement (Duda, 1996). However, the theory is particularly useful in investigating issues of equality in education. Nicholls (1989) argued that a mastery-oriented climate sustains equality, but a performance-oriented climate promotes inequality in education. Indeed, recent studies (Papaioannou, 1995b; Papaioannou & Nikolopoulos, 1995) revealed that the perception of physical education teachers' differential treatment toward high and low achievers was negatively related to perception of a mastery-oriented climate and positively related to perception of a performance-oriented environment. No study has yet been published examining how goal perspectives relate to other issues of equality in physical education, such as the treatment of children of different genders.

The major purpose of the present study was to extend the line of inquiry examining the connection between motivational climate and equality in physical education classes. Here, the selected attribute of students suggesting equality or inequality in physical education was gender. There is evidence that boys and girls are often not treated equitably in physical education classes (Martinek, 1989). In the present study, the perceived motivational climate was examined in conjunction with scales assessing the perceived differential treatment of boys and girls in the context of physical education.

Concurring with Nicholls' (1989) argument, the teacher's emphasis on mastery orientation should be regarded a critical indicator of equal treatment toward boys and girls. To understand this argument, one has to realize why one teacher tries hard to develop all students' abilities and another does not. Typically, in physical education classes there is little or no accountability for teachers, so there are no high expectations for them to make an effort to teach all students. Instead, teachers' task-oriented behavior is more likely to be linked to their own intrinsic interest in teaching and concern about justice and fairness. Indeed, investigations showed that strongly task-oriented individuals are more likely to endorse fairness in sport, but high ego-oriented persons might adopt unfair and illegal means to achieve their goals (Duda & Huston, 1995; Duda, Olson, & Templin, 1991). Teachers who are high in task orientation should be more concerned about justice and fairness in their classes and more inclined to sustain equality than teachers with low task orientation. …

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