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This review is an examination of selected literature from the past thirty years on gender equity in physical education. It is organized in terms of (1) defining the theoretical framework of gender equity, (2) the origins of gender equity in physical education from Title IX legislation, (3) the influence of teacher behavior and the curriculum in providing an equitable class environment, and (4) the applications and implications of gender equity for the physical education practitioner. Despite the well-developed research in the field of physical education about the prevalence of gender inequities exhibited by teachers, there are a few recent research studies in which the authors have failed to show this inequitable treatment. As research has progressed in this area, it is important to note that teachers may be improving in the area of equitable interactions with students of different genders. This review concludes with some suggestions for further research in the area of teaching for gender equity in physical education.
Life in a physical education class can best be conceptualized as a complex web of interactions, which includes a teacher's behavior toward his/her students (LaFrance, 1985). Interactions between teachers and students in physical education are affected by such variables as: verbal behaviors, perceived differences in physical ability, teaching styles and strategies, class management, and curricular issues. When these variables are affected by whether a student is a female or a male, the interactions become gender interactions.
The purpose of this literature review is to examine the physical education literature from the past thirty years relative to gender interactions between teachers and students. It is organized in terms of (1) defining the theoretical framework of gender equity, (2) the origins of gender equity in physical education from Title IX legislation, (3) the influence of teacher behavior and the curriculum in providing an equitable class environment, and (4) the applications and implications of gender equity for the physical education practitioner. The theoretical framework of this review is based on the prevalent theory that teachers are usually unaware of their gender-biased behaviors, and that these behaviors are mostly unintentional (American Association of University Women [AAUW], 1992; Mitchell, Bunker, Kluka, & Sullivan, 1995; Sadker & Sadker, 1994; Shakeshaft, 1986). Shakeshaft suggested that this lack of awareness perpetuates the male model of schooling. In addition, Sadker and Sadker (1994) found, through their numerous studies, that female teachers are just as biased against girls as male teachers. Other researchers have shown that unintentional bias undermines the self-esteem and career ambitions of female students (Ambrose, 1996; Sprague & Edstrom, 2000).
One obstacle in achieving gender equity is proving to teachers that they treat girls and boys differently. There is general agreement in the literature that socialization affects how teachers interact with students. The AAUW (1992) has shown through several research studies that teachers are usually willing to change their behavior when they become aware of their own gender biases. Raising teacher awareness of their own gender biases may be accomplished through pre-service or in-service gender equity training programs, or through self-reflection. In 1995, Mitchell et al. issued a challenge to physical educators to become more conscious of the gender bias in their classes, because it undermines the entire field of teaching physical education. Since a lack of awareness seems to be related to the perpetuation of gender bias in physical education teachers, it is important to review the research which outlines the various teacher behaviors that affect the existence of gender bias in physical education classes.
From past literature, it is clear that both gender equity and gender bias are manifested in a variety of ways in the educational environment. In defining gender equity, Shakeshaft (1986) stated that some people favor "equality of treatment," or offering each student equal access to programs while ignoring individual differences. However, others favor defining gender equity as "equality of outcome," which recognizes that students have different needs and backgrounds, and to receive equal outcomes, they must receive individual treatment. Vertinsky (1992) emphasized that a gender-sensitive perspective recognizes gender issues to be not just about equal access to opportunities, but about the socially constructed power relationships that continue to define the female and male experience in education. Even though diversity has become an accepted concept in education to promote the coexistence of difference, "noticeably absent from the language of diversity is any reference to an educational system's moral and legal obligation to provide equality of opportunity" (Lock, Minarik, & Omata, 1999, p. 403).
The concept of gender equity is often defined in the negative, or as gender bias. Gender bias is the result of not achieving equal opportunities for both sexes, particularly females. Brady and Eisler (1995) further defined gender bias as the demonstration of inequitable treatment toward one sex over the other. Satina, Solmon, Cothran, Loftus, and Stockin-Davidson (1998) noted that students' ideas about gender emerge from continual interactions with others in school and in society. The differences between these students, including their prior experiences, values, ethnic background, socioeconomic background, and their interactions with teachers and peers, will result in differences in their attitudes toward gender equity and gender bias.
This literature review includes research on the historical influence of Title IX on educational opportunities in physical education, on teacher behaviors related to gender interactions, and on the application of gender equity research to practice in physical education. The particular focus is on how these gender equity issues influence the teaching of physical education, and how teachers who become more aware of their own gender bias can improve student learning in their classes.
Title IX and the Impact of History
In 1972, the United States Congress was convinced of the seriousness of educational equity and passed Title IX of the Education Amendments. This legislation mandated gender equity in all educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance. As Arrhigi et al. (1985) stated, Title IX was intended to provide, in part, equal opportunity for physical education instruction to all students. The reason that Title IX exists, according to Portman and Carpenter (1999), is that society treats people unfairly. This national legislation mandated educational equity as a fundamental human right. In fact, soon after Title IX was enacted in the United States, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also stated that "each human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport opportunities essential for the inclusive development of the total child" (Mitchell et al., 1995, p. 4).
Historically, physical education classes have been separated by sex (Geadelmann, 1980; Griffin, 1985; McBride, 1990). Geadelmann went on to suggest that single-gender physical education classes with single-gender teachers are grounded in the traditional assumptions and beliefs about differences between the sexes, and have contributed to gender-role stereotyping that leads to unequal treatment. Even though Title IX mandated coeducational classes, single-gender classes have continued for social reasons and because of the perceived lower physical abilities of women (Arrighi, Chrietzberg, & McKnight, 1985; McBride, 1990). Gender inequities continue to occur in physical education programs throughout the nation, as the commitment to equity is either weak or nonexistent (Hutchinson, 1995). Researchers have primarily examined the effect of coeducational physical education on the rates of girls' participation in physical activity (Wright, 1995), and educational institutions have used this information to either argue for single-gender classes, or to argue for coeducation and how to make it work better.
Some physical education professionals feel that the Title IX legislation has limited their curricula and their teaching strategies. Portman and Carpenter (1999) clarified that Title IX does not prohibit the grouping of students in physical education by ability, as long as they are assessed by objective means. They also stated that Title IX does not prohibit the separation of students by sex within physical education classes in activities involving body contact (e.g., wrestling, boxing, rugby, ice hockey, football, basketball). However, as Jones (1989b) noted, Title IX failed to prepare teachers to confront their own gender biases and to become aware of the impact that differential treatment has on students, particularly female students. Sprague and Edstrom (2000) stated that sex segregation still continues in some physical education programs, …