Student Perception of Competence and Attitude in Middle School Physical Education


  • Kristin Scrabis-Fletcher Montclair State University
  • Stephen Silverman Teachers College, Columbia University



physical education, middle school, motivation


Motivation is a dynamic process that accounts for the interaction and filtration of information by the student and the effect that it has on student behavior. Perception of competence, an embedded motivational theory, posits that the influence of prior experience and information received from outside sources affects student behavior (Harter, 1982). Attitude is also a multifaceted construct that can be defined from varying dimensional viewpoints. A few specific factors have been identified as determinants of student attitude including the teacher, the curriculum, and the context. These factors are similar to those observed in perception of competence research. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of attitude and perception of competence in an effort to gain an understanding of the relationship between the two and their shared attributes and factors. The researchers surveyed middle school students (N = 1281) in Grades 6–8 physical education classes using the Middle School Physical Education Perception of Competence Survey (Scrabis-Fletcher & Silverman, 2010) and the Student Attitude in Middle School Physical Education Survey (Subramaniam & Silverman, 2000). Data analyses showed a significant difference for grade level, Wilks’s ? = .948, F(10, 2542) = 6.83, p = < .0001, and a statistically significant difference for the prior experience factor among all grade levels. Results from this study suggest that although both constructs are sociocognitive in nature, they are not as highly correlated as previously believed. Low correlations were reported across the models, suggesting that the two constructs should be measured independently of each other and that one should not be used to predict the other. Attitude and perception of competence are two distinct sociocognitive concepts that share similar characteristics and factors but, as reported here, function independently of each other.

Author Biographies

Kristin Scrabis-Fletcher, Montclair State University

Exercise Science and Physical EducationAssistant Professort

Stephen Silverman, Teachers College, Columbia University

Dept. of Biobehavioral StudiesProfessor