Teachers' Reports of Student Misbehavior in Physical Education

By Kulinna, Pamela Hodges; Cothran, Donetta J. et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Teachers' Reports of Student Misbehavior in Physical Education


Kulinna, Pamela Hodges, Cothran, Donetta J., Regualos, Rey, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Classroom management, and, more specifically, the management of student behavior is an essential skill for and central concern of physical education teachers. Surprisingly little information is known, however, about the specific nature of student behaviors that might negatively affect the class environment. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' reports of student behaviors that may create management issues in physical education classes. Over 300 teachers representing a range of grade levels and school contexts completed a survey related to the frequency of potentially negative student behaviors. Many types of misbehaviors were reported, but the most common were mild. Teachers' reports varied by sex, years of teaching experience, and school context.

Key words: management, teachers' perspectives, student behavior

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Classroom management is a widely encompassing term often used to describe a range of teacher actions taken to ensure a quality learning environment. A component of management is discipline, the teacher's actions, and reactions related to student behaviors that negatively impact the class (Lewis, 1999). Although it is impossible to make direct comparisons between students of different generations, it is clear student misbehavior has been an important teaching issue for many years (Waller, 1932) and may in fact be a bigger challenge today than in the past (Willis, 1996) due to a variety of reasons, including changes in school power relationships (Cothran & Ennis, 1997) and the increasing disengagement and alienation of students (Sedlak, Wheeler, Pullin, & Cusick, 1986). It is also clear that student disruptive behavior is a major concern of and challenge for teachers of all experience levels (Edwards, 1993). It was the purpose of this paper to explore potentially negative student behavior from the teacher's perspective.

Consequences of Student Misbehavior

The consequences of student disruptive behavior are multifaceted (Doyle, 1986). In terms of instruction, student misbehavior means that teachers must spend time on management and not student learning. Misbehavior can distract both teachers and students from a learning focus (Fernandez-Balboa, 1991). Houghton, Wheldall, and Merrett (1988) found that 55% of the secondary teachers surveyed believed they spent too much time handling student misbehavior. In the large, international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, 4 of 10 teachers reported student behavior negatively influenced their teaching (Akiba, LeTendre, Baker, & Goesling, 2002).

Student misbehavior can also lead to teacher dissatisfaction. More specifically, it may lead to stress and burnout (Schottle & Peltier, 1991) and contribute to an inability to care about students (Chemlynski, 1996). Although discipline struggles are more prevalent among inexperienced teachers (Plax, Kearney, & Tucker, 1986), Feitler and Tokar (1982) found that almost 60% of surveyed inservice teachers reported student misbehavior was a leading contributor to job stress.

Types and Incidence of Student Misbehavior

Much of the research literature related to student misbehavior is based on classroom and not physical education settings. These studies (e.g., Borg, 1998; Borg & Falzon, 1990) have typically reported a wide range of student misbehaviors in class, with most of those behaviors being relatively mild. For example, Wheldall and Merrett (1988) reported nearly 20% of students in primary grades are designated as behaviorally troublesome by their teachers and the most frequent troublesome behaviors are "talking out of turn" and "hindering other children." Similar results were found with secondary teachers (Houghton et al., 1988), although the types and frequency of misbehavior varied slightly by subject matter.

McCormack (1997) provided one of the few investigations into types and incidences of student misbehavior in physical education. …

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