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Research topic

Research Topic

Regular participation in physical activity during childhood and adolescence has many positive physical and physiological health benefits. Dhuruo (2012) posits that participating in physical activity contributes to the following: greater strength and endurance, increased muscle and bone strength, weight control, reduction in anxiety and stress, positive self-esteem, and may reduce the risk of disease (p. 266). In order to enjoy these health benefits, physical activity should begin at a young age and continue throughout an individual’s lifetime. Unfortunately, as a Physical Education (PE) teacher I have observed that participation in physical activity decreases as we grow older. More concerning is that students are less likely to enroll in PE classes as they get older. Butt, Weinberg, Breckon and Claytor (2011) found that this decline in physical activity among students is more obvious with females than males (p.1080). During my years as a student and as a PE teacher I have made some generalizations about females students and their decisions to not to enroll. My observations and conversations have revealed to me that female students lack interest in PE and do not find the activities “fun”. The results of Humbert’s research into females’ perceptions of PE suggests that, in order for females to enroll in PE they must self-identify the experience as fun ( as cited in Robinson, 2012. p. 61). Therefore, the purpose of this proposed study is to identify the conditions that must be present in order for greater numbers of female students to enroll in PE later in their school careers.

Research question

Research Question

What conditions must be present for greater numbers of female students to enroll in PE later in their school careers?

What conditions are needed for female students to be motivated to enroll in high school PE?

What activities do female students self-identify as fun in PE?

Practical and theoretical importance

Practical and Theoretical Importance

Regular exercise offers physical, psychological, social and behavioural health benefits in children and youth. (Active healthy Kids Canada, 2013).

Only 5% of 5-17 year-olds in Canada meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth, which recommend at least 60 minutes of daily moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (Active healthy Kids Canada, 2013).

Robinson (2012) found that female students “consistently expressed less interest than their male peers in physical education” and that “females’ interest wanes with age” (p. 72).

Practical Importance

By identifying the conditions needed for greater numbers of female students to enroll in PE later in their school careers it may be possible to make the necessary changes, and reverse the trend. Exploring these conditions will allow me to acquire data which will give me a deeper understanding of what female students identify as fun and find interesting. In turn, I can make changes to improve my personal and school wide practice to ensure more females are participating in PA and enrolling in PE at my school.

Theoretical Importance

Identifying the conditions needed for female students to enroll in PE later in their school careers has theoretical importance as it adds to the body of literature in this area. This provides other educators the opportunity to benefit from my research and adopt the proposed changes to increase the numbers of female students participating in PE at their schools. It may also be possible to make the necessary changes board wide and ensure curriculum reflects the conditions needed for more females to enroll in PE.

Research setting

Research Setting

Jolly Learning Academy is a coeducational, high school in Rotary town. The school is populated by 775 students between grades 10 and 12. There are currently 3 administrators, 40 classroom teachers, 4 student support teachers, 20 support staff and 2 secretaries working at the school. It serves the varied urban, suburban and rural communities.

Jolly Learning Academy focuses on addressing the diverse needs of the school population by offering a range of courses and programs. Within the PE department there are 3 speciality PE teachers who offer 5 different PE courses. Physical Active Lifestyles (PAL), PE10, PE11, PE12 and PE Leadership 12. Each student must successfully complete one PE credit in order to be eligible for graduation. Alternative PE classes such as dance, yoga and girls only classes are available and accepted by our school board, however none of these options are currently available at Jolly Learning Academy.

Normally, all students enroll in PAL or PE 10 during their first year at Jolly Learning Academy to satisfy the one PE credit needed for graduation. Students are then allowed to, and encouraged to, enroll in as many PE credits as possible. The problem and research topic at hand is the low enrollment rates of female students in grades 11 and 12. On average, there are 3 female students enrolled in the PE 11 and PE 12 courses, compared to more than 20 male students in each.

Researchers relationship to the setting

Researchers Relationship to the Setting

I am driven to conduct research on this topic by my personal experiences as an athlete, a student and a teacher, during which time I have witnessed low enrollment of female students.

I am a PE term teacher at Jolly Learning Academy, teaching grades 10 and 11 coed PE classes. I chose to become a teacher-researcher because the decline of female enrollment in PE is a prevalent issue in my school and I am passionate about the need for a physically active lifestyle. I also agree with the previous research and recognize that the physiological and psychological benefits associated with physical activity are key components in the overall health of females in our society (Dhuruo 2012, p. 266). I believe that asking female students in high school why they stop enrolling and exploring conditions needed for greater numbers of female students to enroll in PE will allow me to explore the root of the problem. Once the underlying issues are identified, we can start working toward possible local solutions that will stop the decline in PE enrollment among female students.

Risk Assessment

I will have to be aware of is that the students will know me as their teacher authority figure and that they may give answers to please me rather than expressing their true feelings. I will maximize the authenticity of responses by acknowledging this limitation and reassuring the students that they may express themselves freely before interviewing them.

Research Stance

My world view is that of an Interpretivist/Constructivist. Therefore I will approach my research from this perspective in an effort to better understand the students. It is important to base my conclusions on their beliefs and experiences. Qualitative methods to collect data will be used, including surveys and interviews with students that ask open-ended questions.

Collaborative approach

Collaborative Approach

Permission for the study will first need to be granted by the principal and school board. I will use a learning conversation where I will take the opportunity to introduce the idea and discuss and evaluate the issue of low enrollment of females together. I will explain that my research question will allow for possible improvements and conditions that will increase the enrollment rates and improve the health of female students.

An information letter will be sent home to all female students explaining the research topic. Attached will be a short survey regarding course selection and an expressions of interest to participate in the study. Selected students will then be contacted regarding the initial meeting. The letter will also request the permission of parents and the consent of the students to participate in my research.

A meeting will be held with female students based on their choice not to enroll in PE and who have shown an interest in becoming participants in the study. The meeting will be held to introduce the research topic, identify what the participants would like to learn from the study, and gain feedback on the research proposal. Permission will be gained through consent forms.

What activities do female students self-identify as fun in PE?

These questions will be answered by having female students who chose not to enroll in PE and indicated an interest in participating in the study complete a questionnaire. Based on the seasonal schedule constraints of the PE department this will be a take home questionnaire to be completed by the participants on their own time. Once filled out, the questionnaires will be returned to me. As I will not be present during the completion of the questionnaire, the questions will be clear and concise, and the form simple and easy to complete.

What conditions are needed for female students to be motivated to enroll in high school PE?

This question will be answered during the interview process using exploratory questions. The questions will be open-ended and designed to explore the participants’ views by inviting them to respond using their own ideas and language (Robinson & Lai, p.108). I have chosen to conduct my research on this question via interview because hearing directly from the female students how they experience our curriculum is more meaningful than simply crunching the numbers.

Research design

Research Design

I have chosen to use the problem-based methodology (PBM) for my research design. My choice of research area exploring the conditions necessary for greater numbers of female students to enroll in PE is based on my desire to contribute to the improvement of my practice as a PE teacher and the improvement of PE generally.

Methods for collecting information
Methods for Collecting Information

Data will be collected at three different stages

  • A short survey using closed-ended questions regarding course selection and an expression of interest to participate in the study to be sent home with female students in October. The survey will provide information regarding which female students have chosen not to enroll in PE, and which of them are willing to participate in the study. An information letter and consent form will also be attached.

  • Once participants have been chosen for the study they will be invited to complete a questionnaire that will help determine the conditions necessary for higher PE enrollment rates among female students. The questionnaire will provide participants with an opportunity to identify physical activities they consider “fun” and that would make them more likely to enroll in PE.

  • Once the questionnaires have been completed and turned in, I will analyze the responses for recurring words, ideas and themes. The subsequent interview will be based on these recurring concepts. The interview will begin with questions designed to make the participant feel comfortable with the process. Indirect questions may be used to avoid situations where the participant may feel pressured to give answers that do not reflect their own feelings. (Robinson & Lai, 2006, p.109). The intention of the interview will be to engage the participant in a discussion rather than a simple question and answer session.