Manifestation of Anti-Fat Bias in Preservice Physical Education Teachers


  • Tucker Readdy University of Wyoming
  • Tristian L. Wallhead



youth obesity, K-12 pedagogy, behavioral observation, mixed-methods research, educator training


Previous research has documented the presence of implicit and explicit anti-fat bias in preservice physical education teachers (Fontana, Furtado, Marston, Mazzardo, & Gallagher, 2013). Such studies speculate that anti-fat bias can result in discriminatory behavior against overweight or obese physical education students. Discriminatory teacher behavior may include reduced frequency and quality of teacher feedback (Greenleaf & Weiller, 2005). Such interactions are problematic as they may negatively impact student learning and ultimately serve to inhibit students’ adoption and maintenance of a physically active lifestyle. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which anti-fat bias existed within a sample of 18 preservice physical educators, as well as to explore whether that bias manifest in the quality and frequency of teacher feedback provided within K–12 physical education settings. Preservice teachers completed a preobservation measure of implicit and explicit anti-fat bias and then were systematically observed for the frequency and type of feedback provided to students perceived as normal and overweight. Following the practicum, a sample of preservice teachers completed qualitative interviews designed to assess perceptions of differential behavior, potential consequences of that behavior, and strategies for eliminating such preferential treatment. 

Quantitative results indicated there was no significant correlation between teachers’ implicit and explicit anti-fat biases. In addition, instructors with strong implicit and explicit bias tended to give more feedback regardless of weight status, while those with moderate bias generally interacted less frequently with students perceived to be overweight. Finally, teachers with no bias tended to communicate equitably across the two weight statuses. Qualitative results provided some explanation for these behavior patterns and suggest that some educators may change their feedback to be more encouraging to perceived overweight students, but overall teacher behavior is primarily driven by the need to engage in good pedagogy and improve the skill of all learners.

Author Biography

Tucker Readdy, University of Wyoming

Assistant Professor

Division of Kinesiology & Health