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Gender interaction in coed physical education: a study in Turkey.


Gender equality has long been an issue in the field of education, with a growing body of research pointing toward the continued prevalence of gender inequality in the classroom. Although there has been a longstanding debate about whether a single-sex or mixed-sex environment is better for each gender in: many Western countries, coeducation is one of the taken-for-granted issues in the modern Turkish education system as part of a national modernization project. This study examined commonly expressed concerns about gender equality in coed PE by focusing on the teachers' and students' gender-stereotyped beliefs in their association with teacher-student interactions in Turkey.

After implementing gender equity policies (Title IX) in many Western countries, many researchers have noted some problems with coeducation in many settings, including PE. In this regard, a number of recent studies have highlighted the continuing debate on the contribution of coed PE classes in providing equal opportunities for girls regarding physical activities (Osborne, Bauer, & Sutlif, 2002; Treanor, Graber, Housner, & Wiegand, 1998) and moving on to focus on PE as a site for the reproduction of gender-stereotyped beliefs in society. It has been suggested by many authors that providing mixed-sex classes does not by itself change the gender equality that is implemented in schools (Hargreaves, 1994; Talbot, 1996).

Gender Equality and Coeducation

Gender equality is a field of professional and political effort with the purpose of creating equal opportunity for all children. Throughout the 1980s, liberal feminists in particular made a significant contribution to the debate on gender equality and coeducation. They believe that society should give women the same educational and occupational opportunities that men have. Therefore, liberal feminist arguments concerning coeducation represented important educational reform that affects equal rights.

Based on this equal opportunity rationale, coeducational PE has progressed toward the realization of an equal opportunity education policy. For example, many researchers have claimed that coed PE provides equal opportunities for participation and allows females and males to socially interact (Colgate, 1999; Davis, 1999; Griffin, 1984; Knoppers, 1988). Whereas many authors have questioned the delivery of coeducational PE, some authors (Hannon & Williams, 2008; Piotrowski, 2000; Shimon, 2005); Evans, Davies, & Penny, (1997) noted that the process must go beyond access if gender equality is to be achieved. Equality of opportunity in PE entails many issues, such as the meaning of equality, the impact of individual and group differences on equality of opportunity, and wider issues relating to power relations and equity in society (Piotrowski, 2000, p. 26). Within the context of this study, demand for equal opportunity in PE includes issues of gender interaction and the reflection of gender-stereotyped beliefs in the classroom. It could be argued that the consequences of gender interaction between teacher and students and gender-stereotyped beliefs may affect opportunities to participate in PE class.

Gender Interaction and Gender-stereotyped Beliefs in Coeducational PE

Some researchers believe that the quality of classroom interaction affects the growth and education of all students, and that teachers have a responsibility to model gender-fair attitudes in their classrooms (Jones, 1989; Sadker & Sadker, 1994), whereas many studies have indicated that teachers tend to interact differently with boys than with girls and that boys were involved in more interactions with teachers (Bailey, 1993; Duffy, Warren & Walsh, 2001; Hopf & Hatzichristou, 1999; Jackson & Salisbury, 1996; Younger, Warrington, & Williams, 1999). For instance, D'Ambrosio and Hammer (1996) investigated gender interaction by using INTERSECT which is a kind of observational instrument in the junior high school settings and they found that boys received more praise, remedials, acceptance, and criticism interactions.

In the PE context, there is evidence that student-to-student and teacher-to-student interactions indicate some levels of gender bias toward boys (Napper-Owen, Kovar, Ermler, & Mehrhof, 1999). Recently, Nicaise, Fairclough, Bois, Davis, and Cogerino (2007) found difference in interactions based on the type of activity in PE, with girls receiving more interactions in badminton, and boys receiving more interactions in weight training. In another recent study, Derry and Allen (2004) found that girls in single-sex PE classes had significantly more engaged skill-learning time and initiated more interactions with teachers than girls in coed PE classes.

Of all the curriculum areas of contemporary schooling, PE provides the optimum opportunity for detailed attention to the reproduction of gender inequities between girls and boys. Scraton (1986) has described school PE as overtly reinforcing gender differences in terms of activities offered, and covertly through the attitudes and reactions of those involved in the practice of PE. Many studies using a qualitative approach to investigate PE lessons have drawn on a nation of teaching and learning as a social process influenced by societal beliefs, attitudes, and opinions such as gender-stereotyped beliefs (Kirk, 1992; Sparkes, 1992; Wright, 1995). Teachers' attitudes and behaviors in PE class frequently reproduce and reinforce gender stereotypes (Scraton, 1993), and gender stereotypes of particular physical activities (by teachers) remains a significant feature of secondary school PE (Flintoff, 1996). A large portion of gender-role stereotyping is reflected in gender messages sent to students by teachers (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). Gender messages are comprised of overt or subtle gender-biased teacher/student interactions whereby girls are offered classroom expectations, feedback, and participation opportunities that are different from those offered to boys. Since appropriate gender beliefs of teachers play a major role in determining their approaches to boys and girls in the classroom, it seems important to examine gender equality in coed PE by focusing on the teachers' and students' gender-stereotyped beliefs and their association with classroom interactions.

Coeducation and Gender Equality in Turkey

Although there has been a great deal of research on coeducation, particularly in PE, in many Western European countries (Blessing, 2005; Jackson & Smith, 2000; Tsolidis & Dobson, 2006; Van Essen, 2003), coeducation has seldom been studied in Turkey. Over the past few decades, the education system in Turkey, as in some other Western countries, has become progressively coeducational. The versatile and comprehensive education reform was established in 1997 to ensure that student-centered education be carried out in all kinds and at all levels of education in keeping with the requirements of the times and society, and that no individual be left out of the education process for any reason. Under this education reform, coeducation became the norm in the Turkish education system to ensure that girls and boys receive the same educational opportunities. At present, except for vocational and religious schools, all government and private schools are coeducational. This reform should not be considered as a reform for gender equity in education, since the reality of equity in access and opportunity for girls in education has only just been realized in Turkey. For example, the Ministry of National Education and NICEF are working for "Let's go to school, girls!" which signifies the girls' education campaign in Turkey. This massive campaign mobilizes various organizations, agencies, and individuals to increase enrollment for girls and to achieve gender parity in primary education attendance by 2005 (http:/ /

Within this broad rationale of Turkish coeducation, PE was not recognized as having a unique role to play. Therefore, there have been no national programs designed to ensure parity for girls' physical learning and enhance gender equality in PE. There is no critical consideration as to whether PE should be mixed or single-sex. However, studies indicated that the level of involvement in PE is lower for girls than for boys in coeducational secondary schools (Kocak, Harris, Kin Isler, & Cicek, 2002), and girls from coeducational schools have less enthusiastic attitudes toward PE and sport in comparison to boys (Koca & Demirhan, 2004; Koca, Asci, & Demirhan, 2005).

In short, the literature on the quality of classroom interaction in reference to gender equality has been enriched tremendously over the past 20 years by the studies in many Western countries. However, a limited number of studies have investigated the relationship between gender-strereotyped beliefs and PE classroom interactions. In addition, although coed PE is seen as the norm in Turkey, many studies indicate that girls' involvement in coed PE is less than that of boys and they even have a negative attitude toward it. Therefore, to fully understand the place of gender equity in coed PE in the Turkish context, based on previous studies, the following purposes of the present study were formulated:

1. To examine the frequency of teachers' and students' interaction.

2. To determine the differences in frequency and types of interaction that are directed toward boys and girls between male and female PE teachers.

3. To determine differences in the frequency and types of interaction that are directed by both male and female PE teachers between girls and boys.

4. To investigate gender-stereotyped beliefs of students and teachers in the PE setting.



This study was conducted during the spring semester of the academic year 2003/2004 in one private school that is situated in suburban Ankara, capital of Turkey. This school is coeducational and prides itself on its academic achievement and resources (such as science laboratories, outdoor and indoor sport facilities, and experienced teachers). Many students are from middle and upper-middle-class families, and their parents tend to be in managerial/professional occupations.

Participants consisted of two PE teachers and 37 8th-grade students in two classes (9 boys, 8 girls in a female PE teacher class and 11 boys, 9 girls in a male PE teacher class). My attention focused on this age group because it is well known that in adolescence, social-environmental factors and biological development lead to changes of perception and behavior. In addition, PE classes are overwhelmingly ignored in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades because of the impending University Entrance Exam. Therefore I preferred to concentrate on 8th-grade students in order to determine the differences in frequency and types of interaction directed toward boys and girls between male and female PE teachers. PE teachers who have similar teaching experience were invited to participate. The female teacher was 29 years old and had 7 years of teaching experience, the male PE teacher was 32 years old with 8 years of experience.

The PE curriculum offers a program that is the same for all schools in Turkey. PE is compulsory in state schools from ages 6 to 16, and schools are expected to provide two hours of physical activity per week for all students. This school follows the same national PE curriculum guidelines prescribed by the MEB and is based on the traditional views of a competitive sports-based model which consists mainly of individual (gymnastics, track and field, and wrestling) and team sports such as volleyball, basketball, handball, and soccer.

Data Collection Instrument

The Teacher-Student Interaction (TSI) form is commonly used in studies on classroom interactions to record (1) frequency of student and teacher initiated interactions, (2) to whom teacher-initiated interactions were directed (individual students, small groups, or the class as a whole), and (3) the nature of the teachers' instructional statements (general or specific feedback, positive or negative instructional feedback) (Rink, 1993). One way to study classroom interactions is through the use of the Interactions for Sex Equity in Classroom Teaching Observation System (INTERSECT) as an observational instrument (Sadker, Sadker, & Bauchner, 1984). This instrument aids in the conversion of general classroom interactions into evaluative types of interactions: praise, criticism, remediation, and acceptance.

As noted earlier, our purpose was to determine the frequency and types of instruction with regard to the gender of teacher and students. Therefore, a slightly modified observational instrument combining the first two parts of TSI and INTERSECT was developed for this study. The present instrument involved coding teacher student interactions by (a) initiation: teacher or students with gender; (b) receiver: students, class, group, or teachers with gender; (c) evaluative type: praise, criticism, remediation, and acceptance.

Intra-Observer Reliability

To ensure observation consistency, the author and one other observer trained in use of the modified TSI & INTERSECTS form before assessing intra-observer reliability consistent with the recommendations of Van der Mars (1989). To test intra-observer reliability, a pilot study was conducted with four PE classes, which was not used in the main study. Two independent observers were asked to view four videotaped lessons in order to evaluate inter-observer agreement with the modified observational instrument form by using the Van der Mars' formula (1989). In four classroom observations, the overall percentage of agreement for the observers' coding ranged from 91% to 100%. In the main study, only the author recorded the observations.

The observations took the form of both quantitative systematic observations and qualitative note taking, and focused on the comments of teachers and students (columns for students' and teachers' comments are included). Individual interviews with students and teachers were also carried out. An interview guide was used to structure the interviews (Patton, 1990), the lengths of which averaged 40 minutes. Semi-structured and theme-oriented questions (Kvale, 1983) were used in order to retain a sense of give-and-take between interviewer and interviewee. Interviews with students were designed to gain a view of students' perceptions of gender and whether teachers' approaches and interactions with boys and girls differed from each other. The interviews with two PE teachers were conducted after the classroom observations and focused on her/his beliefs about PE, views on differences between girls and boys in the classroom as well as their behavior toward girls and boys. The interviews were taped with the students' and teachers' consent and transcribed for data analysis.

Data Collection Procedure

Prior to data collection, permission was requested and granted from the Ministry of National Education to conduct the study. After the school granted permission to perform the study, consent forms were sent to parents by way of the students. The forms briefly described the purposes, procedures, and potential outcomes of the study.

Data were collected over a 12-week period in two eighth-grade PE classrooms of two PE teachers. Two audio-taped teacher interviews and 37 audio-taped student interviews were conducted (17 with girls and 20 with boys), 19 class observations (10 in the female PE teacher's class and 9 in the male PE teacher's class) during three months with each observation lasting 45 minutes. Teachers followed the national PE curriculum which consisted of lessons in tennis, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, track and field, and marching activities.

Data Analysis

For the first three purposes of this study, the percentage of observed frequencies of teacher-initiated statements and student-initiated statements were determined. The direction and types of the teacher-initiated interactions were then determined for both girls and boys in all types of teacher-student interactions (teacher-girls, teacher-boys, teacher-group of boys, teacher-group of girls, teacher-whole class). In order to determine differences in frequency and types of teacher-student interactions regarding gender of teachers and students, chi-square analysis was conducted.

Qualitative data were analyzed using the constant comparative method of qualitative analysis (Patton, 1990; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). To increase validity and trustworthiness, the study design used member checking and triangulation of data. Initially two researchers performed a separate open-coding procedure, followed by mutual comparisons and a final negotiated outcome. After the open coding, working independently, both researchers looked for themes in the data that would be sorted into categories. The researchers rechecked the data and classification system in order to substantiate the appropriateness and accuracy of the categories as well as the data placement in these categories. After independent analyses, they compared and discussed themes. The findings represent their consensus.

Participants were assured that their answers would be kept confidential; all names are pseudonymous to protect anonymity of the participants.


Quantitative Results

Teacher/student-initiated interactions. The first part applies to the first purpose that includes frequency of teacher- and student-initiated interactions. There were 545 interactions in two classes; both PE teachers initiated 427 interactions and students initiated 118 interactions in PE classrooms.

The researcher recorded 78.6% (female PE teacher) and 78% (male PE teacher) teacher-initiated statements and 21.3% (female PE teacher class) and 22% (male PE teacher class) student-initiated statements in two PE classrooms (Table 1). In the female PE teacher's classroom, 18.5% student-initiated statements were from boys, whereas 2.8% were from girls. In the male PE teacher's classroom no girls-initiated statements were found.

Teacher-initiated interactions and gender of students. The second part applies to the second purpose that concerns the differences in the frequency of interaction directed toward boys and girls between female and male PE teachers. In order to analyze the teacher-initiated interactions with girls and boys and types of evaluative teacher-student interactions, 83 teacher-initiated interactions, which are directed toward the entire class, are excluded and only 344 interactions with girls and boys were used for analysis.

The type of teacher-student interactions initiated by two PE teachers is presented in Table II. The findings indicate that both female and male PE teachers interacted with boys more often than with girls (76.2% for female PE teacher with boys and 23.8% with girls; 74.2% for male PE teacher with boys and 25.8% with girls.)

In order to test differences in frequency of teacher-initiated interactions directed toward girls and boys between female and male PE teachers, chi-square analysis was conducted. The analysis revealed no significant differences in teacher-initiated interactions directed toward girls and boys between female and male PE teachers ([chi square] = 0.18, df = 1; p > 0.05). Boys consistently received more interactions than did girls from both PE teachers.

Types of evaluative teacher-student interactions received and gender of students. The last part of the quantitative results applies to the third purpose of the study which concerns the differences in frequency and types of interaction directed by both female and male PE teachers toward girls and boys.

The teacher and student interactions were broken down into evaluative types to see which types were used most often. Criticism (including comments about misbehavior and discipline problems) accounted for the greatest number of interactions (72.4%). This was followed by remediation, which accounted for 14% of the interactions. Praise accounted for 11.6%, and acceptance accounted for 2%.

Female PE Teacher

In female PE teacher-initiated interactions, criticism accounted for the greatest number (73.2%). Remediation accounted for 11.8% and praise accounted for 10% while acceptance accounted for 5%.

Male PE Teacher

In male PE teacher-initiated interactions, criticism accounted for the greatest number (71.4%). This was followed by remediation (12.6%), then praise (9.7%), and acceptance (6.3%).

A chi-square analysis was conducted to see if gender of teacher differentiated the evaluative type of teacher-student interactions (the four evaluative types of interaction were praise, acceptance, remediation, and criticism). The analysis showed no significant differences in the four interaction types between female and male PE teachers ([chi square] = 0.46; df = 3; p > .05). Criticism was the most used interaction by both PE teachers toward girls and boys. Table III presents types of evaluative teacher-initiated interactions received from female and male PE teachers.

Another chi-square analysis was conducted to determine differences in the use of four types of evaluative interactions between girls and boys. A significant difference was found in four types of interactions that are directed by both female and male PE teachers at girls and boys ([chi square] = 43.83; df = 3; p < .01). Although criticism was the most frequent interaction for both girls and boys, it was directed toward boys more than girls. On the other hand, boys received more criticism from the female PE teacher: 79.6% for boys and 53.5% for girls; from male PE teacher: 77.9% for boys and 52.4% of girls), whereas girls received more praise and remediation than did boys. From female PE teacher, girls received 25.6% praise and 14% remediation, and girls from male PE teacher received 23.8% praise and 14.3% remediation (Table III).

Qualitative Results

Although the quantitative findings of this study showed that boys received more interactions from PE teachers and initiated more interactions than did girls with teachers, the findings from individual interviews indicated that gender-stereotyped beliefs of teachers and students might have had an influence on these different gender interactions. Data obtained from interviews are presented under the following themes: gender-stereotyped beliefs of PE teachers, gender-stereotyped beliefs of students, and boys' domination in the PE classroom.

Gender-stereotyped beliefs of PE teachers. When PE teachers were asked to describe their views of girls' and boys' behavior and their reactions to them in individual interviews, they raised the gender-stereotyped beliefs. For example, the female PE teacher said that girls should be more polite, more controllable, and less aggressive than boys. Consistent with this comment, we observed in some PE lessons that the teacher generally felt that it is natural for boys to be aggressive, competitive, and rough; however, there is little tolerance for similar behavior in girls. From class observations, in many teaching activities such as walking and marching, the teacher warned girls about impolite and aggressive behavior by saying, "You are ladies. You should behave like ladies. Do not walk like a soldier." Thus it can be said that the girls' behaviors become a problem for the teacher when they challenge the boundaries of femininity in PE settings. Flintoff and Scraton (2001) also reported that girls are perceived as a problem in coeducational PE because the educational environment produces and reproduces discourses on femininity and motherhood.

However, both PE teachers agreed that boys are more problematic in PE classes in terms of classroom discipline:

Although they (boys) are more motivated and excited in PE than girls, in this age group, they are so aggressive. The problem is that boys do not want to be a part of the class. I mean they just want to play basketball themselves. (Female PE teacher)

Girls have always been more interested in school, although this interest is low for PE. But they have always been more obedient in PE classroom. They worked in a more organized way than did boys. Boys were more disobedient and noisier. (Male PE Teacher)

As might be anticipated, discipline and classroom management issues were of high priority in both PE classes. During the interviews, teachers noted that some boys might be getting more of their time and that the main reason was the boys is the obvious disciplinary problems they have with them. Field notes from classroom observations indicated that disciplinary techniques used by teachers seemed to differ for boys and girls. For example, for similar kinds of disruptive behaviors, female PE teacher preferred to use "carrying heavy objects" as punishment for boys, whereas it was "standing on one leg" for girls. It is interesting that in one class observation of the female PE teacher, while she was punishing some girls by having them stand on one leg, she was rewarding other girls by braiding their hair.

In the PE context, gender appropriateness of physical activities is one of the most important factors that reflect gender-stereotyped beliefs of both teachers and students. When asked to describe their feelings about a variety of physical activities in individual interviews, they raised the factor of gender appropriateness. Gymnastics, volleyball, swimming, and tennis are most appropriate for women and girls, and football, basketball, teakwando, karate, wrestling and weight-lifting are most appropriate for men and boys. The following comment of the female PE teacher reflects her beliefs about the gender appropriateness of physical activities:

I think there is a clear-cut difference between girls' and boys' interests in sport. I am a former volleyball player and now my daughter is playing volleyball. In PE class, most of the girls prefer to play volleyball, not basketball or football. I think that is true. I mean if they want to play volleyball, they should do it. By the way, I play with them. That might be the reason why they prefer volleyball. Actually volleyball and gymnastics are more suitable activities for girls in PE. (Female PE Teacher)

The following comments of girls reflect the gender-stereotyped beliefs of the male PE teacher:

Sometimes the PE teacher (male) wants us to compete with boys in some physical activities. In this case we said that we don't want to compete. Then, teacher smiles and says he is just joking. Even if one of us girls is willing to compete, he doesn't allow her. I mean I think he loves this joke very much. (Deniz)

I don't understand why he (male PE teacher) is doing these kinds of things. I think he loves to see us in funny positions. He knows that we can't compete with boys but still he wants us to. It is just joking! But I don't like to be in such a silly position. (Elif)

These comments indicate that girls received the message from their male PE teacher that they are weak and clumsy. The emphasis on gender and biological differences contributes to the marginalization of girls in relation to physical activity and helps denigrate the female body as lacking in physical capabilities. A large portion of gender-role stereotyping is reflected in education by such gender messages and teachers' differential expectations and biased classroom behaviors result in unequal educational opportunities. As Grosz (1994) indicated, one of the ways the culture and social norms influences what we derive from our bodily experiences is to limit the opportunities and lower the expectations of female students.

Gender-stereotyped beliefs of students. When asked to describe their feelings about a variety of physical activities in individual interviews, consistent with the comments of PE teachers, students raised the gender appropriateness of physical activities. The following comments of girls and boys illustrated their views of gender appropriateness.

I cannot imagine a female being involved with weight lifting or wrestling, even with football. I think these sports are too extreme for girls. (Esin)

I think some sports are more competitive, more rough and dangerous.

Boys can prefer to deal with these sports since they are familiar with these qualities. (Emel, girl)

Boys are stronger than girls and have athletic ability. So they can easily do boxing, football. (Erdal, boy)

It does not matter for me; if a girl wants to play football and has ability, she can do it. (Emre, boy)

I am interested in gymnastics and dance. I think these sports are aesthetic and more appropriate for a woman's body. But I know some girls who are playing football. If they have the ability, they should do it. (Duru, girl)

Importantly, these interviews also reflected the tension between increasing awareness of equity of access on the one hand and the continuity of gender appropriateness of activities on the other. Some girls and boys noted that everybody has a right to participate in activities they choose, but they also claimed that some sports such as football, basketball, and wrestling are more appropriate for girls because these sports are very rough and should be played only by boys. Some of the girls also reported that they have always felt confident in participating in sports considered more appropriate for girls and less confident in sports that are more appropriate for boys. The following field notes from the class of the male PE teacher indicated the feeling of girls:

The subject of the course was basketball. The teacher wanted students to form two groups. Boys and one girl formed one group, but the other girls were reluctant to participate and went to the side of the gym. They told the teacher that they can't play basketball, and teacher told them it was okay. While the participating group was following the teacher's instructions, the rest of them were just watching them or talking to them. Only one girl was playing basketball. (Male PE Teacher)

It seems also important to make the point that both girls and boys are likely to be marginalized in physical activities which emphasize gender appropriate qualities such as femininity and masculinity. In both male and female PE teachers' classes, it was observed that girls are more likely to sit and watch whereas boys always want to participate in activities that are appropriate for them. For example, a girl who participated in boys' PE activities such as basketball, said that she risks alienation from many of the girls: "You know everybody says that girls can't play basketball. Girls should not play basketball. But I do not believe this. I mean I am playing basketball. So what? But even my girlfriends call me a tomboy. They just want me to play with them." (Selin)

In sum, because of the gender-stereotyped beliefs of students, some of them did not participate in PE lessons, including gender-appropriate activities. Further, for instance in basketball lessons, except for one girl, only boys followed the instructions of the PE teacher; therefore the PE teacher interacted with boys more than girls. Although gymnastics is perceived as a girl-appropriate activity, gymnastics in PE classes were mainly strength-oriented and as a result, boys participated.

Boys domination in PE class. Results from the observational analysis show that gender patterns in PE classes are largely consistent with findings of previous studies: boys are more prominent. A core theme in teacher and student interviews and class observations was that boys were more dominant in two PE classes. There is widespread agreement among both girls and boys and PE teachers that girls were more subtle and less likely to be in open conflict with teachers. It was agreed by most of the girls and boys that, as far as classroom discipline was concerned, boys were most likely to get into trouble. The following comments of girls are illustrative:

I think girls are more interested in all courses. Maybe the other main courses are more important for us (girls). But general academic success is important for the High School Entry Exam. Therefore we are trying to participate in PE although we do not like it, whereas boys do not think like that. Almost all boys like PE but they only want to play basketball or football. So more olden they do not do what the teachers wants them to. (Ozge)

Boys do not obey the rules in PE. They always want to do something that is not allowed by the teacher. Most of them are fighting with each other. (Aslt)

Most of the girls were critical of some coed physical activities and boys' behavior in those activities. Girls' illustrations of boys' disruptive behavior include sexist comments and criticism of girls, with the result that they were unwilling to participate. For these girls, some kinds of physical activities such as team sports--volleyball, football, basketball, and running--were not an enjoyable and often resulted in arguments and fighting. For example in one of the observed volleyball lessons in a female PE class, boys dominated the game while most of the girls Spent most of the time running around and waiting for the ball to be passed to them. As a result, most of the girls refused to play with boys in any physical activities:

I do not want to play with boys in PE. For example, if you want to play volleyball with boys, you will not have a chance to touch the ball. Actually they do not allow us to play with them or try to disturb us by making fun of our abilities or appearance. (Esin)

Some boys do not want to play with girls in any PE activities.

Football? Basketball? I can't imagine playing with girls. Girls are always complaining about something in PE. I think they are not suitable for activities that are rough and competitive. They have no abilities; they are weak. I do not like playing with girls., (Doga)

Most of the boys prefer to participate with other boys and have little contact with girls in both PE classes. These boys take up a large portion of teacher time and dominate much of the communication, which is consistent with their behavior in other classes. In addition, both PE teachers suggested that the ambience of the classroom, was more likely to be influenced by boys than girls. As the male PE teacher said, "Boys are more interested in sports, so they are more interested in PE. But girls are just participating in PE because it is compulsory. So they are reluctant to take part. But boys are always active in this course, because they love it. Therefore they are more influential in the atmosphere of the class."


The quantitative findings of this study indicated that most of the classroom interactions were initiated by both female and male PE teachers and that they directed more interactions toward boys than girls. This was consistent with many studies in the field of PE (Dunbar & O'Sullivan, 1986; MacDonald, 1990), as with other educational fields (D'Ambrosio & Hammer, 1996; Einarson & Granstrom, 2002; Ilatov, Shamai, Hertz-Lazarovitz & Mayer-Young, 1998). Previous studies (Bailey, 1993; D'Ambrosio & Hammer, 1996; Einarson & Granstrom, 2002) have suggested that the greater number of teacher interactions directed toward boys might be due to the fact that boys initiated more interactions; qualitative data showed that boys were more dominant and more active in both coed PE classes.

Davis (2000) studied two college PE classes in the United States by using the INTERSECT and found that female students received more verbal contacts than did males; females received twice the amount of verbal praise and remediation than did their male counterparts. In addition she argued that teachers' perceptions of female students' skill level being below average may be the reason for female students' increased verbal feedback. This result is partly consistent with the findings of the current study. Although boys received more interactions, girls received more praise. However, from the class observations and interviews, both PE teachers did not make any effort to increase girls' level of skill or participation. On the other hand, teachers and girls in this study believed that girls have no interest in PE activities and that they are not necessary for their lives. The qualitative analysis of the study confirmed the findings that boys took a more active role in classroom interactions in both PE classes than did girls. Indeed, this dominance on many occasions by boys was the most striking characteristic of coed PE classes. Teachers' expectations frequently appeared to be determined by boys who dominated the classroom atmosphere.

Another finding of this study was that most of the verbal interactions for both genders fell into the criticism category. On the other hand, comments of PE teachers were more related to justification than instruction. In Davis (2000) found that most of the verbal interactions for both genders fell into the remediation category, which is about skill level of students. By comparison, although this finding should be cautiously interpreted, it might be said that PE teachers in the present study did not emphasize skill development. Further, both PE teachers directed more criticism (mostly about discipline problems) toward boys. Thus, much of teacher-student interaction with boys focused on management of the class rather than teaching. Keeping in mind the quantitative findings of this study, which indicated a higher level of teacher-boys interaction in both PE classes, it should also be noted that the reality is that boys received more negative attention.

The last purpose of this study was to investigate teachers' and students' gender-stereotyped beliefs. The comments of PE teachers clearly indicated that their approach to classroom interaction depended on their beliefs about gender-appropriate behavior. As revealed here, this study verifies the findings of other studies which have found that physical educators have expressed very strong opinions concerning the different abilities of girls and boys, laden with patriarchal stereotypes of appropriate masculine and feminine behavior (Robinson, 1992; Scraton, 1992).

PE teachers in this study hold gender-stereotyped expectation about the different abilities of boys and girls, and these shape teacher-student interactions in the classroom. Consequently, boys dominated the PE environment, both physically and verbally, while girls were marginalized. Further, both girls and boys are likely to be marginalized if physical activities emphasize gender-appropriate qualities. Many studies have demonstrated that when a physical activity is perceived to be gender appropriate, self-competence beliefs will be stronger than when the activity is perceived to be gender inappropriate (Lee, Fredenburg, Belcher, & Cleveland, 1999; Lirg, George, Chase, & Ferguson, 1996; Solmon, Lee, Belcher, Harrison, & Wells, 2003).

There are some possible problems with regard to collection of the data. When conducting observational studies, the researcher must always consider the possibility of observer bias. However, the observer did make a conscious effort to inhibit any possible biases. Another limitation is that this study surveyed a convenience sample of Ankara urban and private schools and thus the generalizability of results should be made with caution. Despite these limitations, this study indicates the need for gender-equitable classroom interaction and training for PE teachers. As Sadker and Sadker (1994) have indicated, that while teachers may know gender-equity principles and may express gender-fair viewpoints, what they actually do in their own classes may not necessarily reflect this knowledge.

In conclusion, the findings of this study indicate that both female and male PE teachers interact more frequently with boys, and this difference is influenced by both gender-stereotyped beliefs of teachers and students. Both class observations and individual interactions demonstrate that coeducation is failing to deliver equality of opportunity in PE. In educational policies in Turkey, gender equity was instituted to provide equal educational opportunities for all students. The process is far-reaching and that includes curriculum and pedagogy, equality of learning opportunities, classroom interactions, and equal expectations from teachers and the relationships between boys and girls in the PE context.


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Requests for reprints should be sent to Canan Koca, Hacettepe Universitesi, Spor Bilimleri ve Teknolojisi Yuksekokulu, Beytepe Kamposo, Beytepe, Ankara, Turkey. E-mail:
Table I. Percentages of initiated statements from teachers and

 Teacher-initiated Girl-initiated Boy-initiated
 statements statements statements
 n % n % n %

Female PE Teacher 221 78.6 8 2.8 52 18.5
Male PE Teacher 206 78 0 0 58 22

Table II. Frequencies and percentages of teacher-initiated
interactions toward girls and boys


 Boy Girl

PE Teacher n % n %

Female 138 76.2 43 23.8
Male 121 74.2 42 25.8

[chi square] (1, N= 344) = 0.18, p=0.666 (Chi square for differences
in teacher-initiated interactions directed toward girls and boys
between female and male PE teachers)

Table III. Percentages of types of evaluative teacher-initiated
interactions toward girls and boys

 Praise Criticism Remediation Acceptance

PE Teacher G B G B G B G B

Female 25.6% 7.3% 53.5% 79.6% 14% 13.1% 7% 0%
Male 23.8% 7.4% 52.4% 77.9% 14.3% 14.8% 9.5% 0%

G: Girl; B: Boy

[chi square] = (3, N=344) = 0.46, p=0.927 (Chi square for differences
in four types of evaluative interactions directed toward girls and
boys between female and male PE teachers)

[chi square] (3, N=344) = 43.83, p=0.000 (Chi square for difference in
four types of evaluative interactions that is directed by both female
and male PE teachers between girls and boys)
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