Student misbehavior in physical education: the role of 2 x 2 achievement goals and moral disengagement.

Author:Hsu, Wei-Ting
Position:Research article - Report


Scholars have always been concerned about student misbehaviors in the classroom. Studies conducted in general educational contexts have specifically shown that student misbehaviors interfere with teaching and thus hinder the quality of education. Such misbehaviors have also been found to be one of the main causes of the working stress and burnout among teachers in the long term (Kaplan et al., 2002; Kaplan and Maehr, 1999; Lewis, 1999). Recent studies in the context of physical education have suggested that student misbehaviors not only influence teaching quality but also impede the learning of peers (Cothran et al., 2009; Kulinna et al., 2006). Hence, the misbehaviors of students in physical education have been viewed as a crucial research topic.

Student misbehaviors have gained attention, but studies have thus far focused mostly on the types and measures of such behaviors. For instance, Goyette et al., (2000) categorized the behaviors of Canadian students in physical education at three levels based on the seriousness of their behaviors: the primary (e.g., being distracted, talking, and lacking a uniform), the secondary (e.g., clowning around, making noise, and harassing others), and the tertiary (e.g., criticizing others, being rude, and acting aggressively). Kulinna et al. (2003) developed the Physical Education Classroom Instrument (PECI) to measure the misbehaviors of students in physical education. This measurement includes 59 items and six subscales: (a) Aggressive Behavior, (b) Low Engagement or Irresponsibility, (c) Failure to Follow Directions, (d) Illegal or Harmful Behavior, (e) Distracting or Disruptive Behavior, and (f) Poor Self-Management. A follow-up study used the PECI as a research tool to investigate the misbehaviors of students in physical education from both pupils' and teachers' perspectives (Kulinna et al., 2006). Because the PECI takes a long time to complete and is thus less practical for researchers, Krech et al. (2010) developed a short-form version of the PECI with only 20 items and five dimensions: (a) Aggressive Behavior, (b) Low Engagement, (c) Failure to Follow Directions, (d) Poor Self-management, and (e) Distracting Behavior. Meanwhile, Lin and Lin (2008) conducted a similar study in Taiwan, developing a questionnaire to measure how perceived student behaviors have impacts on learning in physical education and categorizing the behaviors that interfere with peers' learning into eight dimensions (i.e., displaying a lack of sportsmanship, avoiding teaching activities, being idle, attempting to draw attention to oneself, being uncooperative during teaching activities, being competitive, breaking rules, and talk and will). Surprisingly, these studies all suggested probing further into the factors driving the misbehaviors in physical education; however, studies on this issue remain scarce.

The determinants of student misbehaviors in physical education must be identified through theoretical frameworks due to the insufficient findings on this issue. In previous studies, achievement goal theory was most frequently used to explain the behaviors of students in physical education (Wang et al., 2007; 2010; Warburton and Spray, 2009) because students who have different goal orientations for physical education accordingly demonstrate different behaviors. Nicholls (1984) suggested that learners have two goal orientations: performance and mastery. Performance-oriented individuals are more likely to compare themselves with others and behave negatively, while mastery-oriented individuals tend to compete with themselves and have more positive behaviors. Nevertheless, the findings on the relationship between performance goals and maladaptation were inconsistent in many studies. Elliot and Church (1997) examined theoretical frameworks and relevant empirical studies and found that some performance-oriented individuals focus on the possibility of succeeding while others intend to emphasize the possibility of failure. Therefore, they proposed the concept of "approach-avoidance" and further divided the performance goal orientation into "performance-approach" and "performance-avoidance" to form a trichotomous achievement-goal framework with the existing mastery goal. Researchers (Elliot, 1999; Elliot and McGregor, 2001) added the concept of "approach-avoidance" and formed 2 x 2 achievement-goal orientation framework (i.e., mastery-approach, mastery-avoidance, performance-approach, and performanceavoidance).

Agbuga et al. (2010) conducted one of the most significant studies on the link between students' achievement goals and misbehaviors; the relationship between students' achievement goals and disruptive behaviors were examined in an after-school physical activity program. The findings suggested that the participants' performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals were positively related to their self-reported disruptive behaviors, whereas the mastery goal was negatively related to low engagement. The current study attempted to further explore the understanding of student misbehaviors in physical education, building on the foundation of Agbuga et al. (2010). First, since the 2 x 2 achievement goal framework has gained sufficient supporting evidence in physical education (Chen et al., 2009; Wang et al., 2007; 2010), the current study intended to replace the trichotomous model with the 2 x 2 achievement goal framework as its theoretical foundation. Second, Agbuga et al. (2010) adopted the PECI of Kulinna et al. (2003) as the measure of disruptive behaviors in their study, but the items and factor structure in the newly developed PECI (Krech et al., 2010) are distinct from the 2003 version. Hence, the new version of the PECI is believed to potentially measure the misbehaviors of students in physical education more accurately.

In addition to goal orientations, another variable relevant to misbehaviors in physical education is moral disengagement. According to social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1991), individuals will act in line with social norms and their conscience under rational self-monitoring and will restrain themselves when they perceive their acts or behaviors as violations of social norms and conscience. By contrast, individuals will also rationalize their inappropriate or immoral behaviors by disengaging from selfregulation. This psychosocial mechanism of rationalization is considered moral disengagement. Bandura (1999) further identified eight mechanisms of moral disengagement: euphemistic labeling, moral justification, advantageous comparison, diffusion of responsibility, displacement of responsibility, distortion of consequences, dehumanization, and attribution of blame. Take "diffusion of responsibility" as an example; when a student is being lazy in class, he/she may rationalize this behavior by thinking that other students are also being lazy in class, so he/she is just "doing what others do."

Scholars have already turned their attention to the antecedents of moral disengagement in sports. Moral disengagement is found to be a psychosocial mechanism that can explain athletes' anti-social behaviors of athletes in depth, and it has gained empirical support in many different sports disciplines in recent studies in sports contexts (see Boardley and Kavussanu, 2011, for an overall review). Kavussanu (2008) reviewed studies regarding moral disengagement in sports and suggested that researchers examine whether moral disengagement plays a mediating role in achievement goals and relevant behaviors. Corrion et al. (2009) also argued that moral disengagement in sports must be examined with the 2 x 2 achievement goal framework. The approach and avoidance achievement goals in this framework will make additional contributions both theoretically and practically. Boardley and Kavussanu (2009) conducted research on hockey and netball players and found that the perceived mastery climate of athletes had negative effects on antisocial behavior; by contrast, the performance climate had positive effects on antisocial behavior, while moral disengagement served as the mediator of both effects. Boardley and Kavussanu (2010) further examined the relationships between athletes' goal orientation, moral disengagement, and antisocial behaviors and found that moral disengagement mediated the effects of ego orientation on antisocial behaviors. Both studies suggested that athletes would use the psychosocial mechanism of moral disengagement to disengage from or discontinue their self-monitoring of antisocial behaviors, while the levels of moral disengagement were influenced by their goal orientations or perceived motivational climates. Thus, the current study aimed to further examine the roles of moral disengagement in physical education based on the study of Boardley and Kavussanu (2010) and adopted the 2 x 2 achievement goal framework rather than performance and mastery orientations. This approach is expected to further the understanding of the relationships among goal orientation, moral disengagement, and misbehaviors of physical education students.

In general, the current study was to determine whether goal orientations were related to students' self-reported misbehaviors in physical education and whether any effects...

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