Middle School Students' Perceptions of Coed versus Non-Coed Physical Education
Osborne, Kelly, Bauer, Amy, Sutliff, Michael, Physical Educator
For years physical educators have been trying to find a way to make physical education more enjoyable and worthwhile for children. An important factor when considering ways to make physical education more meaningful is the issue of integrated classes as mandated by Title IX (Griffin, 1984). The purpose of the study is to better understand middle school student perceptions of participating in physical education within coed and non-coed classes. The results of this study indicated that although preferences regarding coed versus non-coed physical education exists among middle school students, these preferences depended largely upon the situation at hand. In other words, boys and girls did prefer coed physical education at times, but most often preferred non-coed physical education.
For years physical educators have been trying to find a way to make physical education more enjoyable and worthwhile for children. An important factor when considering ways to make physical education more meaningful is the issue of integrated classes as mandated by Title IX (Griffin, 1984). Prior to the implementation of Title IX, it was not uncommon to find males getting preferential treatment with regards to facilities and equipment, while females used second-hand equipment and scheduled facility use around the male' s schedules (Durrant, 1992). One of the rationales behind Title IX is mixed gender classes provide the same opportunities for participation, thus providing a more equitable learning environment for students (Griffin, 1984; Knoppers, 1988). Perhaps one of the most important results of Title IX is girls' and women's participation in sport and/or physical activity is now viewed as an acceptable and beneficial pursuit (Durrant, 1992). An implication of this is the significant change in the values society places on gender equality.
In spite of these perceived benefits, the question still arises, does a coed physical education environment foster learning as effectively as a non-coed environment? According to Griffin (1984), some teachers would argue that "they feel that boys must hold back and that the physical education program has become watered down because of the girls" (pg. 30), suggesting that both genders would benefit more from a non-coed physical education learning environment. Additional questions concerning the impact of coeducational physical education comes from several specialists. In a recent issues question in JOPERD (1999, pg. 11) "should physical education classes return to teaching males and females separately?" each responding physical education specialists support non-coed classes. One specialist indicated that for her "the realities have been horrendous. Valuable time is lost ... scheduling is extremely difficult ... classes are often grossly imbalance in terms of gender ... Girls don't fuss. Their good nature has worked against them. Activities they enjoy have disappeared" (Keinman, 1999. p. 11). Similarly, a 25-year veteran who teaches junior high stated, "I wish one trend that would return is separate female and male physical education classes. In separate physical education classes girls can be girls without having to worry about the presence of boys. Girls who are tentative in some activities have more success in an all-girl class. Boys have a tendency to put win-win-win pressure on girls during an activity, instead of just doing the activity for enjoyment" (Rhyan, 1999, p. 12).
Interestingly, those who responded to this question in favor of coed physical education were all university or college professors. Persons in higher education believe that coed physical education is essential for several reasons which include but are not limited to: (1) allowing males and females to learn together and socially interact, (2) appreciation of the characteristics, abilities and motivations of opposite genders, and (3) physical education outcomes are not dependent upon being male or female (Colgate; 1999; Davis, 1999; Docheff, 1999). …