Over the past two decades, the education of teachers has drawn criticism, from many parts of our society. Legislators, government bureaucrats, business leaders, and many "experts" on education have voiced their opinions on reform strategies for such programs (Anderson, 1989; Biddle, 1989). Odden (1984) stated, "reform of the process of schooling may be the prerequisite for all other education reform." Public opinion often views the problems within schools as the fault of the teachers, and whatever they do poorly must have been learned in their teacher education program. Regardless of where the problem may lie, there is no doubt about the impact of the teacher education process on tomorrow's teachers. A first step toward understanding how teacher education affects the education process would be to understand if the beliefs of future teachers could be influenced.
A modified 3-item questionnaire from a study by Placek, Dodds, Doolittle, Portman, Ratliffe, & Pinkham (1995)was used to collect and compare data on students' beliefs about the purposes of elementary, middle, and high school physical education as they entered their first teacher education class and at the completion of student teaching two years later. Respondents statements of purpose for physical education were reported in response to one open-ended question in three parts: "In your opinion, what should be the purpose of (a) elementary physical education? (b) middle school physical education? (c) high school physical education?" The respondents were 36 undergraduate physical education majors from a southeastern public university. For the purpose of this study, the following category definitions were used for coding the questionnaires:
* Learn skill: Developing or improving students' abilities to perform physical activities and motor skills;
* Name of sport: A statement of a specific sport, activity, or fundamental motor skill with no sense that students would learn or improve in these activities;
* Fitness: Any activity relating to developing fitness;
* Social interaction: Helping students get along with others and develop interpersonal skills;
* Participation: Doing, playing, or actively taking part in physical activities;
* Fun/Enjoyment: Having fun or enjoying physical education with no indication of why or how this occurs;
* Cognitive knowledge: Learning about or how to, excluding fitness knowledge;
* Valuing physical activity: Developing positive attitudes, motivation, interest, or appreciation for physical activity;
* Break/Recreation: Recess or break from school routine of other subject matter, but not a purposeful organized activity in physical education;
* Other: Any response that fell outside of defined categories (Placek et al., 1995)
Interrater reliability of 90% was the standard held for coding all questionnaires. The coders checked all questionable codings with each other until agreements were reached and did reliability checks at designated intervals to assure adherence to the coding categories.
Prior to their teacher education classes, the purpose most frequently expressed (see Table 1) was for students to learn skill in physical education (elementary 58%, middle 38%), while cognitive knowledge was most important in high school (36%). After two years of classes in teacher education, with the exception of high school, beliefs of the students with regards to learning skills remained the same with a slight increase in elementary (69%) and middle (44%). Name of sports (52%) replaced cognitive knowledge as the most frequently expressed purpose for physical education in high school. The greatest change in purpose of elementary and middle physical education was the category fun/enjoyment, which decreased over the two-year period from 22% to 4% and 11% to 5%, respectively. …