«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
Forty-eight respondents (57.8% of the sample) scored in the range of 6 to 12. This range was viewed at a descriptive level to indicate a ‘negative’ view of PSW, as scores in this range were achieved by agreeing with negatively framed statements offered within the questions, providing a numeric response of either 1 or 2. When compared across values in all subdomains (table 5.1), mean group score was lowest in the PSW category, although the ‘body’ category had the lowest mode value and highest proportion of trainees scoring within ‘negative’ values. This suggested that, at a general level, the group of trainee primary teachers held somewhat negative self perceptions of their physical characteristics. Such data were treated with caution as mean and mode scores clearly obscure the full range of scores achieved; for the purposes of this study, it was imperative that both ‘extreme’ and ‘average’ cases were investigated further.
Table 5.1 Descriptive data from PSPP
The ‘sport’ sub-domain showed the highest group mean score, yet the mode value (11) was still within the ‘negative’ range, with over 55% of responses grouped in the range of 6-12.
Whilst this data is descriptive and self-reported (and therefore with an accepted risk for respondents to self-score along central or negative values), it does suggest a view of physical self perception amongst the participants that was generally more negative than positive. It was also noted that the results within the ‘sport’ sub-domain in particular, and in all sub-domains in general, appears to have been skewed by the small number (6) of male participants in the overall group. Table 5.2 shows gender sub group mean scores across all sub-domains and for general physical self-worth. Sub group scores for male and females are seen to be distinctly different.
Table 5.2 Gender sub-group mean scores
Mean values for males in each category were all in excess of 15, with the ‘sport’ sub-domain indicating the highest of the sub-group means. The male sub-group means are all within the ‘positive’ range of scores and are in excess of female sub-group means. The widest discrepancy occurs between males and females in the body satisfaction sub-domain where the female only sub-group achieved its lowest rating. The highest mean for the female sub-group was within the strength sub domain, whilst this sub-domain was the lowest scoring in the male groups. The small number of males in this group had a markedly more positive self-reported physical self-perception than most females who made up the majority (92%) of the sample.
Further statistical analysis indicated highly significant gender differences in sport, condition, body, sports importance and PSW scores (see table 5.3). There was a significant gender difference in strength and non significant differences in condition importance, body importance and strength importance.
Table 5.3 Gender differences within the sub-domains of physical self-perception SPORT t (80) = 4.
62, p 0.001 (2-tailed). This indicates a highly significant gender difference, males females CONDITION Mann-Whitney U (1) = 44.5, p = 0.001 (2-tailed). This indicates a highly significant gender difference, males females BODY t (80) = 4.06, p 0.001 (2-tailed). This indicates a highly significant gender difference, males females STRENGTH t (80) = 2.00, p = 0.048 (2-tailed). This indicates a significant gender difference, males females PHYSICAL t (80) = 3.67, p 0.001 (2-tailed). This indicates a highly significant gender SELF WORTH difference, males females SPORT t (77) = 2.97, p = 0.004 (2-tailed). This indicates a highly significant gender IMPORTANCE difference, males females CONDITION Mann-Whitney U (1) = 160.0; p = 0.253 (2-tailed). This indicates a nonIMPORTANCE significant gender difference, males females BODY t (77) = -0.28, p = 0.778 (2-tailed). This indicates a non-significant gender IMPORTANCE difference, males females STRENGTH t (77) = 0.42, p = 0.676 (2-tailed). This indicates a non-significant gender IMPORTANCE difference, males females Gender differences Investigation relating to the causal factors of such self perceptions was relevant to both male and female respondents. If, for example, male trainee primary teachers had a higher level of PSW than their female counterparts, together with a higher sports competence score and perceived importance of sport, then it would be pertinent to understand why this may be the case, particularly if this has a relationship with disposition towards PE and sport and ensuing teaching behaviours. For some of the female trainees within the sample, negative experiences within school sport and PE are seen to result in specific dispositions and give further rise to concerns raised in chapter 2 regarding the ‘male-based’ nature of the current NCPE (Azzarito & Solomon, 2005). This is highly relevant in light of the gender balance of the primary school workforce and the low number of males entering primary ITT nationally at the time of this study; only 12% of teachers are male and in 3 out of 10 schools there are no male teachers (General Teaching Council for England [GTCE], 2009).
Although the sample size is relatively small, the significant differences between genders suggest that male and female trainees arrive at the outset of the primary ITT process with contrasting physical self perceptions. Where the outcomes of such dispositions manifest themselves within working practices, there is a significant potential for dissonance between trainee teacher dispositions and the expectations placed on them through the structures of ITT and of primary schools in general. For those trainees with a low physical self-perception, a wish for ‘specialist others’ to teach PE appears a common theme, given heightened significance within the landscape of the remodelled workforce outlined in chapter 2 which has created opportunities for visiting ‘specialists’ to relieve class teachers of their responsibilities in PE in schools.
A number of gender differences appeared to emerge from the outset of the investigation;
however, the relatively small number of males within the sample prevents a number of broader claims being made. Interview data suggest that it was equally possible for female participants to demonstrate high values of physical self perception and for male participants to demonstrate low levels, although male respondents appeared more confident when discussing physical self perception during interviews. My field notes written during year 1 (February 2005) included
the following entry:
A noticeable difference between the men and women. The men seemed to want to discuss sport and their prowess, whereas the women were much more circumspect. Although some of the men came across as being very confident, I wonder whether this is entirely the case. Future interviews to interrogate this further (Researcher field notes, February 2005).
Articulating the physical self The extent to which trainees appeared at ease when talking about physical self perception and sports competence varied considerably across the group. Those who had studied PE and/or sport at school examination level (GCSE and Advanced Level PE) appeared most confident in this regard. Such trainee teachers seemed able to reflect on their own participation levels most easily compared to others in the group who had not studied PE as part of their school examination curriculum. In general, participants shared memories of life experiences candidly and it seemed that the experiences most closely associated with the formation of physical selfperceptions were easily surfaced in interviews – even where the memories were distant, upsetting and emotionally charged for the trainees concerned. Participants were able to articulate a view of their physical selves, in many cases offering what seemed to be an honest
and frank appraisal. Sarah (Stage 1b) explained that she:
Never liked the way I look… I’m too tall, so don’t wear heels…I judge myself against other people.
This self-awareness appeared to be in the forefront of Sarah’s mind as she provided specific examples of negative comments that family members had made about her appearance throughout her life. This participant typified concerns regarding body weight amongst participants. Julia (Stage 1c) provided a similarly emotional recollection of a specific incident
that she attributed to on-going issues concerning bodily self-perception:
I was teased horribly when I was fourteen on a bus by some boys who started calling me ‘Michelin woman’….I ended up nearly anorexic and was hospitalized at 16 so I did have quite an issue with food. But now I have an issue that I can’t go without food because I get the shakes. I am constantly trying to find ways to stop (eating too much).
In contrast, other respondents showed apparent satisfaction with their physical selves.
James (Stage 1b) explained that:
I’m tall, quite big… I’m quite comfortable with who I am so it’s never really been something I’ve bothered with - body image.
Adam (Stage 1c) summarised a self perception of physical competence by saying:
I think I am more of a Springbok. I’m kind of quite slight but can run and do most things…I’m quite happy, I’m quite comfortable. Strong enough and kind of fit enough to do general things.
Participants articulated a perceived link between physical self perception and participation in practical activities, such as taking part in sport or teaching PE in school. For two interviewees, a negative view of self appeared not to impact on a willingness to take part in physical activity and sport. Jo (Stage 1b) described herself as ‘overweight and short - but not bothered about it’ whilst Sarah (with an apparently deep-rooted unhappiness with body image, see above) said that ‘it doesn’t matter what you look like when you play sport and I feel comfortable in those situations’. James (Stage 2a) articulated a link between liking PE and sport and a motivation to
choose further PE study in year 2 of the ITT course by saying that:
my gut reaction was to go with things you like. If you like something, you’re going to have an affinity with it, you’re going to do well…I think you’ve got to do something you like.
Sport: competence and perceived importance The PSPP data implied that some trainee teachers viewed themselves more favourably than others in sports ability (sport competence sub domain scores) and other physical sub domains.
Of particular relevance to this study was self-perception of ‘sports competence’ which, in tandem with the trainee teachers’ perceived importance of sport (measured through the PIP), was seen to influence trainee teachers’ attitudes towards PE. In general terms, trainees with high physical self perception and a high importance attached to sport were positively disposed towards sport and, by association, PE. Adam typified the view of trainees in this group by saying that he was ‘sporty and always had been’ (Stage 1c). Other trainee teachers were dismissive of any potential to improve their competence (particularly with regard to sports competence); Becky typified the views of trainees of this type by saying that PE and sport was ‘just not them’ Stage 1b).
The results gleaned from question 1 of the PSPP provided a snapshot of where trainees saw themselves in relation to ‘sports competence’. Overall, 73% of trainees responded negatively to this question (i.e. a score of 6-12 deemed to be in a negative range of response). At the same time, PIP scores indicated a positive correlation between the perceived importance of sport and domain-specific self-perception (i.e. the sports competence sub-domain). In general terms, higher sport competence scores correlated with high levels of importance attached to sport.
Results demonstrated, however, that for a small number of trainees (2 out of the 13 participants in Stage 2), incongruence existed between sport specific self-perception and the perceived importance of sport. Such trainees were characterised by high levels of perceived importance of sport and low self-perception in relation to sport competence. Such trainee teachers appeared to understand the importance of sport and physical activity for children yet suggested that this was not something that they should or could be teaching.
For example, Kay (Stage 3b) stated:
I can see why it’s good for children to be active and for them to enjoy sport, but I just don’t feel comfortable teaching it…the older kids know more about sport than me anyway and I worry about the organisation and stuff. I know it’s wrong for me not to want to give children the opportunity, but I am much happier in the classroom.
The trainee teachers who articulated the greatest levels of confidence in and enthusiasm for PE during interviews were those who originally self-reported positive PSW and sport competence together with high perceived importance of sport. Such trainee teachers embarked on their ITT course with an unquestioned commitment to teaching PE in school and were ready and willing to take the role as teachers of PE at an early stage of school based experience. For example, in his year 1 school experience placement, Adam was pleased to be allowed to ‘teach all the PE the class had’, although this was not a formal expectation or requirement of the placement.
Adam had not considered whether this was entirely appropriate or whether or not he should expect a degree of mentoring whilst working in the school based context. Of particular interest was the way in which such trainee teachers coped with the demanding task of teaching PE to a full class during year 1 school experience. The coping mechanism described was a reliance on previous experiences of coaching in a sports context or on personal, recent experiences of
taking part in sport as participants. For example, Nicola (Stage 1c) said that:
I chose to do some netball with them, some drills and skills and a small game.
They loved it; don’t think they had done PE like that before.