Students leave physical education class with an attitude toward physical education that can impact their physical activity levels. Obesity is a concern among children, making participation in physical activity critical. The purpose of this study was to begin to understand fourth and fifth grade student attitudes toward and perceptions of physical education, when students are in the formative years of their attitude development. The study was grounded in the Theory of Reasoned Action, which states that a person's attitude guides their behavior (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975).
This study had three parts. First, scores of an instrument were validated to examine student attitudes. Second the results of the attitude instrument were analyzed for all, fourth and fifth grade students, and by gender. Third, student perceptions were examined in a qualitative study.
The attitude instrument used the dual component view of attitude, and was adapted from Subramaniam & Silverman (2000). Multiple phases were employed to determine score reliability and validity. Once the data for 1344 students were collected, psychometric analysis was completed which resulted in finding the questionnaire fit two different models. The first, and stronger, model reflects a two factor model that shows student attitude to be influenced by cognition and affect. The second model, marginally weaker, is a four factor model comprised of cognition and affect factors with sub-factors of teacher and curriculum.
The attitude study results suggested that fourth and fifth grade students enjoy physical education and think that it is important. It also suggested that boys and girls attitudes do not yet differ. Additionally, fourth graders have a higher attitude toward physical education than fifth graders.
Student perceptions toward physical education were collected during observations of and interviews with 16 students whose attitudes were either high (HA) or moderate and low (MLA). Having fun in physical education class and the class activities were noted as major themes. Students also tend to choose physical education as their favorite class, they are excited about class, the teacher impacts their fun level, MLA students love problem solving activities, and fitness activities are perceived differently by HA and MLA students.