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The gendering of physical education: Factors leading to the masculinization of physical education studies in government secondary schools in Western Australia

Browne, Jennifer Ann (1991) The gendering of physical education: Factors leading to the masculinization of physical education studies in government secondary schools in Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study focuses on reasons why girls select or do not select Physical Education Studies in Years 11 and 12 in government secondary schools in Western Australia. Although the course attracted increasing enrolments in the four years following its introduction in 1984, the percentage of girls enrolling declined over the same period. The research was conducted in the context of the change from compulsory single-sex physical education classes in the early 1980s to optional coeducational classes, resulting from revised curriculum offerings in upper school during this period.

Following a sample survey with Year 12 girls, which produced similar results to Canadian studies, group interviews indicated gender as a construct requiring further investigation. Responses from Year 12 girls and boys to rating and ranking scales based on perceived gender, difficulty and usefulness of the 20 most commonly selected courses revealed that Physical Education Studies was perceived as one of the most masculine subjects.

Three stages of research followed to discover underlying causes for this perception of masculinity. Firstly, physical activities chosen for the practical component of the course were examined. Findings indicated that the majority of activities selected were perceived as masculine and that activities preferred by boys were more likely to be offered than activities preferred by girls. Secondly, recommended textbooks were analysed and found to be male-oriented. Thirdly, the sex and status of staff involved in teaching Physical Education Studies were examined and it was found that the course was conducted largely by male teachers of senior rank. The sex of teachers in turn affected the selection of physical activities.

It is proposed that following the introduction of Physical Education Studies into schools, the coeducational grouping of the classes has resulted in the course being gendered as masculine. As a consequence, a male hegemonic system has evolved and Physical Education Studies has become a contested domain.

Finally, physical education is placed in a feminist pedagogical perspective. The gender-sensitive approach is chosen as the appropriate model on which to proceed with necessary reviews and reforms. Proposed implementation strategies focus on the need for a gender-inclusive curriculum and a supportive school environment, in order to change the masculine image of Physical Education Studies and facilitate improved participation by girls.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Currie, Jan
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