Why Girls PE?

As an individual who enjoyed PE, I never thought about why the vast majority of high school girls don’t like it.  That was until I was asked how I was going to make PE more enjoyable for female youth in my class by Dr. Sandra Gibbons during my application interview  to the School of Physical Education at the University of Victoria.

Since that interview, I have become passionate about getting female students excited to participate in PE, and have created several courses at my high school which draw a large amount of female students – Women’s PE 11/12, Outdoor Education 11/12, and Yoga 11/12.

I continue to work with Dr. Sandra Gibbons through research projects at the University of Victoria, and am excited to see the amount of female-centered PE classes on the rise in British Columbia.

The following information is summarized from my Thesis Paper, “A Thoughtful Evaluation of a Girls Only Physical Education Program” which was completed June, 2013 through Gonzaga University.

Physical activity is essential for health and wellness, and necessary for proper growth and development in children and youth.  Being active is proven to improve physical and mental health and decrease the chance of obesity, many cancers, Type II Diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, arthritis, hypertension, stress, and depression.  Physically active individuals not only reap the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, but also enjoy more positive self-esteem, improved self-confidence, and higher academic achievement.

Unfortunately, physical activity levels are decreasing and overweight and obesity levels are increasing in both children and adults around the globe.  Adolescent girls are of specific concern as physical activity levels in females decreases dramatically between nine and eighteen years of age.  Unfortunately, many young girls begin becoming dissatisfied with PE in elementary school and that dissatisfaction continues to grow and play a large part in why the majority of female youth elect not to enroll in PE 11 or 12.

Many female youth are dissatisfied with traditional physical education classes because they feel self-conscious, physically or emotionally unsafe, and embarrassed to sweat or “try” around male classmates.  Many young females also do not enjoy the competitive atmosphere, traditional PE activities, the lack of input and choice, “sweating” if they have to go to another class afterwards, male teachers, or units and activities that they find boring and repetitive.  Many girls also believe that traditional PE classes do not improve physical fitness, that the activities they participate in are not relevant or beneficial to them, or that they simply do not participate enough or put in the effort needed to improve physical fitness.  Research has also shown that changing into PE strip, fitness testing, lack of skill, gender-role stereotypes, negative impact on studies, and no opportunity to participate in sport at a higher level effects female enjoyment in PE.

The most important thing that female youth are looking for in a PE class is having fun in a safe and positive environment.  They are also looking for choice, gender separation opportunities, authentic assessment, an emphasis on new and lifetime activities, variety, community and field trip opportunities, value-added options, relevant activities and information, time to master skills and concepts, appropriate scheduling in the timetable, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic (female) teacher, the ability to foster friendships and create bonds with classmates, and an emphasis on participation and effort.

Fortunately, research indicates that females will willingly participate in physical education classes that cater to their needs, wants, interests, feelings, and beliefs.  PE teachers must adapt current programs or create new classes that will make PE more appealing, more meaningful, and more enjoyable for young girls. This will increase participation and enjoyment in both lower and upper level physical education classes, and because habits are developed early in life, encourage young females to become healthy, active citizens for many years to come.

If you are interested in reading the entire Thesis Paper please click the link below.

Karli Van Vliet Thesis