The Qualities of Physical Education Teachers Based upon Students' Perceptions of Physical Appearance

By Gold, Ralph R.; Petrella, John et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Qualities of Physical Education Teachers Based upon Students' Perceptions of Physical Appearance


Gold, Ralph R., Petrella, John, Angel, James, Ennis, Leslie S., Woolley, Thomas W., Journal of Instructional Psychology


The purpose of this study was to investigate students' perceptions of physical educators. The study examined the following characteristics of instructors: 1) the effect appearance had on the instructors' ability to instill exercise intentions; 2) the effect the instructor's body image had on their credibility; 3) the students' perceptions of the instructor as being knowledgeable; 4) the students' belief that the instructor was a role model; and 5) the effect of gender on students' perceptions. Participants in this study consisted of male and female seventh- and eighth-grade students in a metropolitan region in the southeastern United States (n = 805). Students completed the survey which consisted of four images with varying body types. Participants were asked questions on their perception, attitude, and behavioral intentions. The study revealed a disconnect between the physical educators appearance and their message to their students.

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One third of the children in the United States are overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2008b; Ogden, Carroll & Flegal, 2008). Health care experts caution that these values are dangerously high. America's adolescents are the most obese teenagers in the world. Today's children may have a lower life expectancy than their parents because of numerous health complications brought on by obesity (Lavizzo-Mourey, 2004) leading to the first generation in more than a century to have shorter life spans than their parents (Olshansky, et al., 2005).

Body mass index (BMI) is the most widely accepted screening method for identifying overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. Obtaining the height and weight measurements needed to calculate BMI is the most widely accepted screening method for overweight and obesity because these measurements are non-invasive. The BMI correlates with the level of body fat (Mei, et al., 2002). Children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are categorized as being overweight when their BMI values are at or above the 85th percentile but lower than the 95th percentile. They are categorized as obese when their BMI values are at or above the 95th percentile (Barlow & the Expert Committee, 2007). Childhood obesity predisposes children to numerous physiological complications, including type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and heart attack, hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose homeostasis, sleep apnea, accelerated pubertal skeletal development, and orthopedic disorders (Freedman, Dietz, Srinivasan, & Berenson, 1999; Yanovski, 2001.)

According to Wang and Dietz (2002), obesity-related annual hospital costs among youth were estimated to have more than tripled from $35 million in 1975-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999. Additionally, obesity-related medical spending on adults was estimated to have topped $40 billion in 1998. By 2008, those costs had increased to an estimated $147 billion dollars annually (Finkelstein, Trogdon, Cohen, & Dietz, 2009).

Levy and Petty (2008) identified the following factors suspected of contributing to childhood obesity: increased sedentary time spent watching television; playing video games; using computers, technology, and other media; regularly consuming junk food; media that markets unhealthy foods and drinks to children; schools that offer decreased recess time and school physical education; dual-career parents who are hurried, stressed, with little or no time to cook healthy meals or supervise their children's activities; living with a single parent; and parents who are not well educated about obesity and the influence of parental factors.

Lafee (2008) reported that overweight or obese children have a 70% likelihood of becoming overweight or obese adults. Having an obese parent more than doubles the risk that both obese and non-obese children will become obese adults (Salbe & Ravussin, 2000). Furthermore, when both parents are obese, the chance that their children will also be obese rises to 80% (Anspaugh, Hamrick, & Rosato, 2003). …

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