Understanding the Factors That Influence Motivation and Experiences in High School Physical Education


  • Brenna Cosgrove Miller Seneca Valley School District
  • Elizabeth S. Edwards James Madison University
  • Susan Nye James Madison University




physical education, race, gender, ethnicity, motivation


In comparison to children, adolescents achieve significantly less physical activity (PA). Additionally, activity differences exist among genders and race/ethnicities. One means of influencing the PA habits of adolescents is high school physical education. Although PE class reaches students of all ages, genders, and races, motivation and experiences across these groups appear to differ. The purpose of this study was to determine if PE descriptors, motivators, and experiences in ninth- and 10th-grade students differed across gender, race/ethnicity, and grade. Ninth- and 10th-grade students (n = 698) completed a questionnaire about the factors that influence their motivation and experiences in PE class. Responses were compared across gender, race/ethnicity, and grade. Primary findings show that males and freshmen had more positive experiences in PE class than females and sophomores, respectively. Additionally, Caucasian students had more negative experiences in PE class in comparison to students of any other race/ethnicity. These findings illustrate the necessity for PE teacher sensitivity when they teach students of different genders, grades, and ethnic backgrounds. Special attention should be given to the social aspect of PE classes among females, student transition from middle school to high school, and the varying experiences in PE of students of different races/ethnicities. The results demonstrate the need for future research in this area.

Author Biographies

Brenna Cosgrove Miller, Seneca Valley School District

Ryan Gloyer Middle School

Elizabeth S. Edwards, James Madison University

Department of Kinesiology

Susan Nye, James Madison University

Department of Kinesiology