Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Meaningful Participation of Girls in Senior Physical Education Courses

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Meaningful Participation of Girls in Senior Physical Education Courses

Article excerpt

The purpose of this investigation was to gain insight into the features of 32 senior physical education courses from 22 school districts in British Columbia that have successfully maintained high enrollments of female students. Analysis of course outlines, interviews with teachers, and student questionnaires were used to collect data. The following themes emerged: (a) focus on lifetime physical activities, (b) student involvement in course development, (c) authentic assessment, (d) gender as a course design feature, (e) value added options, and (f) positive and respectful class environment. Findings offer considerations for the design of physical education courses to address the learning needs of female high school students.

Keywords: girl-friendly PE, Physical Education curriculum, authentic assessment, gender stereotyping in physical education, curriculum coherence

Cette etude vise a mettre en lumiere les caracteristiques de 32 cours d'education physique au secondaire qui ont su maintenir un nombre eleve d'inscriptions chez les filles dans 22 commissions scolaires en Colombie-Britannique. Les donnees ont ete colligees a l'aide de l'analyse des plans de cours, d'entrevues menees aupres des enseignants et de questionnaires a l'intention des eleves. Les themes suivants sont ressortis de l'analyse : (a) l'accent mis sur des activites physiques pouvant etre effectuees tout au long d'une vie, (b) la participation des eleves a l'elaboration du cours, (c) la pertinence de l'evaluation, (d) la prise en compte des sexes dans la conception meme du cours, (e) les options a valeur ajoutee et (f) l'atmosphere positive et respectueuse durant les cours. Les conclusions fournissent des elements a prendre en consideration lors de la conception de cours d'education physique en vue de repondre aux besoins d'apprentissage des filles au secondaire.

Mots cles : education physique conviviale pour les filles, cours d'education physique, evaluation pertinente, stereotypes en fonction du sexe en education physique, coherence du curriculum.


The primary mandate of Physical Education (PE) programs in Canadian schools is to help students develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to be physically active throughout their lives (Pangrazi & Gibbons, 2009). Craig and Cameron (2004) suggest that "schools could influence physical activity choices and options available to children and youth, through their policies, communications, and facilities" (pp. 55-56). Despite this mandate, educators struggle to offer PE programs that are interesting to and meaningful for female students. This problem is reflected in the low enrollment of young women in senior elective PE programs. In British Columbia, for example, fewer than 10 per cent of female students (compared to 24 per cent of male students) choose to enroll in PE once it becomes an elective course after grade 10 (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2000). Substantive scholarship indicates that typical PE programs offered to adolescent girls in Canadian schools may not sufficiently engage them in relevant physical activity during the critical developmental period between childhood and adulthood (Fenton, Frisby, & Luke, 1999; Gibbons & Humbert, 2008; Gibbons, Wharf Higgins, Gaul, & Van Gyn, 1999; Olafson, 2002; Vertinsky, Batth, & Naidu, 1996).


The present study is grounded in the conceptual underpinnings associated with curricular coherence. A coherent curriculum "holds together, makes sense as a whole; and its parts, whatever they are, are unified and connected by the sense of the whole" (Beane, 1995, p. 3). Beane (1995) identifies four crucial factors associated with curricular coherence: creation and maintenance of visible connections between purposes and everyday learning experiences so that students who come in contact with the curriculum can readily acknowledge its relevance. …

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