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Exploring common stressors in physical education: A qualitative study

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journal contribution
posted on 29.05.2018, 13:18 by Kate E. Tudor, Mustafa Sarkar, Christopher SprayChristopher Spray
Daily stressors, or hassles, refer to the everyday environmental demands that constitute a threat or challenge, or exceed an individual’s biological or psychological capacities. Increasing evidence suggests that daily stressors have a significant impact on adolescents’ educational outcomes, for example, performance, wellbeing and negative attitudes toward school; however, there is limited research examining the concept of common stressors in physical education (PE) lessons. As early adolescence is a developmental period associated with decreased engagement in PE, it is important to identify the environmental stressors that may be associated with increased disengagement. The study included 54 secondary school students and six PE teachers from five schools in the English Midlands. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted and a thematic analysis was applied to the interview transcripts. Three higher order themes were identified from the data: the social environment; the physical and organisational environment; and the performance environment. Common stressors within the social environment included: interpersonal transactions between peers; differences in effort levels during PE; and working outside one’s peer group. Stressors within the physical and organisational environment consisted of environmental situations within the changing facilities and the availability of activities. Finally, performance environment stressors included: situations involving the difficult acquisition of physical skills; and situations where physical appearance and physical competencies were exposed. The study extends previous findings by identifying potentially threatening and frustrating environmental demands that have not been identified in the previous literature. The current study is the first to explore the typical stressors that are experienced by students in PE.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

European Physical Education Review


TUDOR, K.E., SARKAR, M. and SPRAY, C.M., 2018. Exploring common stressors in physical education: A qualitative study. European Physical Education Review, 25 (3), pp.675-690.


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This paper was published in the journal European Physical Education Review and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1177/1356336X18761586.