Refocusing the Lens on Girls’ Participation in Physical Education

Desmond Woodruff Delk, Leonard D. Towns-Newby, Henry H. McCladdie, Marsha D. Herron


Recommendations for effectively teaching girls in physical education have been an initiative of scholars decades before Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 was enacted (Cassidy & Kozman, 1943; Curtis, 1915; Frymir & Hillas, 1935). In fact, the argument for gender equality in physical activity is nearly as old as the United States. In his historical recount of women in physical activity, Robert J. Parks (1982) highlights colonial papers that advocated for coeducational classrooms, and lamented the modicum of physical activity engagement of women and girls. As the literature has evolved throughout the years, it has become evident that works about girls in physical education has progressed from overly opinionated recommendations about girls’ decorum in gender segregated classes to theoretically-based research that considers girls’ attitudes and their perceived barriers, as well as ideal class settings for optimum learning and participation. However, neither physical activity levels nor interest in physical education are high for girls (Inchley, Currie, Todd, Akhtar & Currie, 2005; Jago, Anderson, Baranowski, Watson, 2005; Wolf et al., 1995). Although the scope of this review of literature does not delve into the long history of women in sports; gender issues in physical education will be explored, thus giving insight into the many aspects of women in physical education, and physical activity through the years.

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