Recruitment of undergraduate students in kinesiology: Implications for physical education

K. Andrew R. Richards, Daniel P. Gawrisch, Victoria N. Shiver, Matthew D. Curtner-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physical education teacher education enrollment numbers are declining with limited empirical understanding. Recruitment into the physical education profession has been passive, although scholars have begun to advocate for an active approach. The present study utilized occupational socialization theory to understand why undergraduate kinesiology majors select a kinesiology concentration outside of physical education. Participants (n = 75) were kinesiology undergraduate students at a large, public university in the US Midwest. Quantitative data included forced-choice questions regarding socialization experiences (n = 75) that were analyzed descriptively and through independent-samples t-tests to identify gender differences. Qualitative data included autobiographical essays (n = 75) and semi-structured interviews (n = 23), analyzed using a multi-phase process. Health and fitness was the most highly rated recruitment facilitator, and many of the facilitators were different than those noted in the physical education literature. The four qualitative themes included the following: (a) the influence of family, teachers and coaches, and medical mentors on career choice; (b) future career goals aligned with the helping professions; (c) negative experiences in physical education act as a barrier to recruitment; and (d) firsthand and active recruitment into kinesiology. Participants’ negative physical education experiences reinforces the idea that the passive recruitment process serves to socialize some students out of physical education. Future research should consider professional socialization within kinesiology-aligned fields outside of physical education. Active recruitment initiatives should be designed to increase enrollments in physical education teacher education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-149
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Occupational socialization theory
  • acculturation
  • mixed methods
  • subjective theories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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