By Rachel G.
In class, we have discussed the constraints or barriers that adolescents have today when it comes to participating in sports and leisure. These constraints can become quite obvious in the physical education classes at school. In recent studies the question of whether co-ed or same sex is better for students is raised. It is still up for debate and is research is still ongoing. Is one more positive for one sex and negative for the other? Or do they both benefit in one over the other. In the following two articles, the researchers both conducted studies of young adolescences in the education system, the first was observational and the second included interviews with teachers. After reading these articles the constraints that both sexes have, are clearly present.
Mckenzie, Prochaska, Sallis, and LaMaster (2004) found that there was more “play time” in boys-only classes versus girls only. This, in turn, lead to girls also spending less time in physical activity during the lesson time. Girls tended to get more moderate-vigorous physical activity in girls-only classes. Boys, on the other hand, had the same amount in both co-ed and boys only. Girls-only classes usually spent more time on skill drills because girls generally have lower motor and sports skill levels at this age. However, with boys playing more, this could lead to boys to having greater preference for team games. Findings from previous studies indicate many girls do not prefer co-ed physical education classes, and may be at a disadvantage while participating in them. They suggested that girls-only physical education may better address some educational needs of adolescent girls, allowing educators to take the time to pay more attention to skill development. This study did acknowledge that they did not examine individual student level factor and suggested further study on classroom composition and lesson plans. They stated that the complexities of gender issues and gender equity in physical education are substantial. This also takes into consideration the varying societal expectations for behaviours in different cultural environments.
The second article by Wright (1997), interviewed numerous physical education teachers both male and female that taught co-ed and same sex classes. They found that girls in co-ed were more easily embarrassed to make a mistake and avoided physical contact with their male peers in sport situations, this lead to much more resistance from the girls compared to the boys to participate. The male students usually received more praise than girls because they participated more in co-ed settings. Female students tended to ask more questions and have longer conversation with their teacher about the lesson. With male students, it was some quick short interactions in regards to the sporting lesson. Both male and female teachers had more interpersonal interactions with female students verses male students. These same teachers also usually anticipated or assumed that female students would have a less knowledge on the sport and would need more instruction and encouragement. In most of the boys-only lessons it was clear that the teacher expected the boys to bring sufficient resources to participate in skill practices and games with less introduction or instruction. In the skills practice, which followed the explanation, where the male teachers were teaching boys, there were long pauses while the boys practiced without any commentary. The opposite would happen with girls-only practice, with much more frequent stops to explain more. Where the female and male teachers’ language seems to suggest that they were more likely to take into account the girls’ reactions, their experiences and needs; the male teachers in their talk to boys were more likely to establish what had to be done and how and then let the boys get on with their tasks. For male students who were non-compliant, it was assumed it had nothing to do with his individual identity but brought into question is masculinity. On the other hand, females who were non-complaint ironically confirmed their positioning as feminine. Usually the language of the teachers usually unconsciously positioned students in relation to cultural views on gender. This article put social relations at the center of concerns and suggested that teachers should tried to developed a better understand of their actions and language with their students.
This second article was published in 1997, I’d like to believe that the educational system has become more aware of the language they use with their male and female students. However, there are some aspects that are still prevalent today. Some of the observations stated I can clearly think back to my own high school days and relate. Both articles in the end did not say that one way of organizing the students was better than the other. It seems evident that it really comes down the individual. Some females would feel more comfortable than others to participate in co-ed sports of physical education. Coming back to the constraints of adolescent girls; body image, lack of self-confidence, shyness, over competitiveness and parental influence. At this age they are taking into consideration what society thinks women should be. Engaging in sports with other males, could be viewed as being too masculine. On the other hand, male students who don’t want engage in sport in co-ed situations could be teased or viewed to be like the girls. Male constraints include: body image, pressure to conform to masculine roles, lack of skill has no place and parental influences.
The classroom should be a place where social constructs like these are meant to be broken. The way teachers talk or treat females and males should be more equal or neutral and teachers should not make overall assumptions about either sex. It is hard to ignore the influence of outside factors such as media and parents. The classroom however should be an open-minded place where students shouldn’t be ridiculed on how they participate in certain sports. The focus of the classroom should be to encourage all students to be physically active, healthy and to teach them about different sports. In a coaching setting, again coaches need to be more conscious about the language they use with their players no matter the sex. Evidently there are benefits to both co-ed and same sex sports and recreation. More research needs to be done, in order to possibly choose one over the other. However, I believe that it really comes down to the individual which is more beneficial.
McKenzie, T. L., Prochaska, J. J., Sallis, J. F., & LaMaster, K. J. (2004). Coeducational and Single-Sex Physical Education in Middle Schools: Impact on Physical Activity. Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport, 75(4), 446-449.
Wright, J. (1997). The construction of gendered contexts in single sex and co‐educational physical education lessons. Sport, Education and Society, 2(1), 55-72.