Effects of Same-Sex versus Coeducational Physical Education on the Self-Perceptions of Middle and High School Students

By Lirgg, Cathy D. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, September 1993 | Go to article overview

Effects of Same-Sex versus Coeducational Physical Education on the Self-Perceptions of Middle and High School Students


Lirgg, Cathy D., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


The purpose of this field experiment was to investigate the effects of attending either a coeducationsl or a same-sex physical eduction class on sevaral self-perception variables. Middle and high school youth who had previously been in coeducational classes were assigned to either a same-sex or a new coeducational physical class for a 10-lesson unit of basketball. Analyses were conducted at both the group and the individual levels. Self-perception variables examined included perceived self-confidence of learning basketball, perceived usefulness of basketball, and perceived gener-appropriateness of basketball. Results of hierarchial linear model group level analyses indicated that the variability in groups for self-confidence could be explained by grade, class, and the interaction between gender and class type. At the individual level, multivariate results showed that, after the unit, males and coeducational classes were significantly more confident in their ability to learn basketball than males in same-sex classes. Also, males in same-sex classed decreased in confidene from pretreatment to posttreatment. Perceived usefulness of basketball emerged as the strongest predictor of self-confidence for learning basketball for both genders. In general, middle school students preferred same-sex, whereas high school students preferred coeducational classes.

Key words: self-efficacy, gender difference, Title IX

Perhaps at no time in the history of physical education has a change caused a much controversy as that precipitated by Title IX. This act, formally called Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, sought to eliminate sex discrimination among students and had important implications for physical education. Schools were forced to examine, among other things, their instructional opportunities, intramural and interscholastic programs, hiring practices, budgets, and use of facilities. In addition, this law prohibited the offering of same-sex courses and programs, such as all-girl home economics, all-boy industrial arts, and separate girls' and boys' physical education (Dunkle & Sandler. 1975).

Under the provision of Title IX, physical education classes were to be available to all students, allowing both boys and girls the opportunity to participate in all physical education activities. Classes in which contact sports were taught (boxing, wrestling, ice hockey, football, basketball, and rugby) could be segregated for class competition but had to be integrated for instruction. Either male or female teachers could teach the classes, provided some provision was made regarding supervision of the locker rooms. Locker rooms and facilities were to be similar for both boys and girls. Title IX also stipulated that standards of individual performance (i.e., grading policies) should be developed and applied without regard to sex. In short, what was once separated and unequal (same sex) was not integrated (coeducational) for the purposed of equalizing resources afforded boys and girls.

The question of whether coeducational physical education classed beyond elementary school have succeeded or failed may be difficult to answer. In the past, researchers have used performance outcome as the dependent measure to answer this question; that is, same-sex classes and coeducational classes were compared by examining student performance on skills tests or achievement tests. This research has generally supported coeducation or at leat has found little or no differences in the performances of students taught coeducationally and those taught in same-sex classes (e.g., Brightwell, 1969; Tallman, 1970). However, these results may have been due to the fact that little differnce in performance could be demonstrated in only one instructional unit of 2-3 weeks, although learning may have been taking place. If these earlier studies had been designed so that learning differences or similarities occurring in same-sex or coeducational settings could have been measured, results may have been different. …

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