Physical education teachers’ perceptions of perceived mattering and marginalization

K. Andrew R. Richards, Karen Lux Gaudreault, Jenna R. Starck, Amelia Mays Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In many countries around the world, physical education (PE) has been identified as a marginalized subject. PE teachers have been found to feel negative consequences associated with marginality, such as stress, burnout, and early career attrition. Recent evidence also indicates that physical educators can develop a sense of perceived mattering both in relation the subject of PE and their role as that teacher of that subject. Less is known, however, about the relationship between perceived mattering and marginalization, and how teachers navigate social messages associated with each that they receive while teaching. Role socialization theory has emerged as an approach to studying teachers’ experiences in school environments, and can be used to understand their experiences with marginality and mattering. Aims: The purpose of this study was to understand how the social environment of schools influences PE teachers’ perceptions of marginalization and perceived mattering, and how these two constructs interact. Method: The investigation was conceptualized as an interview study, and framed using a social constructivist epistemology. Participants included 30 in-service PE teachers (16 males, 14 females) from the Midwest region of the US. Data were collected using in-depth qualitative interviews, and analyzed through a collaborative approach to data analysis that drew upon both inductive and deductive forms of analysis. Results: Participants identified experiences with both perceived mattering and marginalization in their work, and noted that sometimes these messages were contradictory. Some participants felt the effects of marginalization as their discipline was viewed as a dispensable commodity that is only meaningful for the service it provides to other teachers (e.g. gives elementary classroom teachers a break for planning). Some of the teachers internalized their marginal status and began to see their primary function as supporting the work of teachers in other subjects. Nevertheless, the participants derived a sense of mattering by building relationships with colleagues, administrators, and students, and by advocating for the discipline. Teachers also felt validated when colleagues acknowledge their attempts to implement effective practices, but struggled when working with colleagues who are resistant to change. Conclusions: PE teachers experience both marginalization and perceived mattering, which are shaped largely by social interactions within the school environment. This study specifically lends to the view of marginalization and perceived mattering as two constructs at opposite ends of a continuum, rather than a binary conceptualization. This suggests that it could be the summation of marginalizing experiences and those that promote mattering that lead physical educators to develop overall impressions of their role in schools. Furthermore, this study adds to the literature indicating that physical educators may eventually internalize feelings of marginalization when consistently told that they do not matter. This has implications related to the washout effect whereby teachers who no longer feel as if they are making meaningful contributions to children’s education may compromise their teaching practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-459
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2018


  • Identity
  • in-depth interviewing
  • social processes/development
  • sociology
  • teacher socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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