Follow up to April’s AIESEP Connect

Did you miss it? You can watch the session video recording here


In addition, presenters Natalia Organista, Zuzanna Mazur, and Michal Lenartowicz have provided responses to the questions raised throughout the session. 

Here are their responses: 

Karolina S:   You mentioned that girls are less likely to exercise. Are there any encouraging tactics taken by teachers? Are there any special programs or initiatives aimed at encouraging girls to be more physically active in Poland?

Some of the girls we observed during the lessons were indeed less inclined to engage in exercises. Also, PE teachers during individual in-depth interviews noted that some girls do not want to participate in lessons. During the IDIs, we asked teachers about their tactics for encouraging girls to exercise as well as programs aimed at encouraging girls to be more active. The primary tactic indicated by PE teachers was conversation. The interviewed teachers explained that they try to present the benefits of being active to girls. Additionally, it was pointed out that it is important to conduct activities that girls enjoy – most often mentioned were music-related activities and less intense individual exercises, such as yoga. Furthermore, some PE teachers mentioned that sometimes they make concessions to female students and allow them to be less involved in the lesson, such as simply going for a walk or lying on mats. Thus, they applied a benevolent approach to female students, which may result in them receiving a less advanced education than boys. This approach may deepen the gap in the level of physical activity between boys and girls.


The occasional lack of activity among girls during lessons also stemmed from the belief of some PE teachers that firmness towards girls could result in them ceasing to attend physical education classes altogether. It still happens that students bring in long-term medical exemptions, which the teacher will have to accept, even if they are not actually ill. In Poland, obtaining such exemptions is not a major problem.


Furthermore, a benevolent approach to female students was connected to the belief that girls’ attitudes towards PE cannot be changed. Some of the interviewed PE teachers used the discourse of gender difference to characterize students’ attitudes and were convinced that girls are “naturally” different from boys and do not have the same need for physical activity. Thus, the discourse of biological difference contributed to the opinion of some teachers about the impossibility of changing girls’ attitudes due to their “nature”.


Importantly, the interviewed PE teachers did not refer to social or cultural factors that could have influenced girls’ attitudes during physical education lessons.


In Poland, there are several programs to encourage children and adolescents to take up physical activity, but there are currently none in place that are designed just for girls. One of them is the School Sports Club Program: This is an initiative of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism to promote physical activity among children and youth. The program offers financial support to schools to organize additional sports activities and these classes offer more opportunities in terms of forms of activity. There are more classes in dance, Nordic walking, or even cheerleading, so girls are more interested than in standard physical education classes.


It is clear that you used a very empathic research methodology to really understand this issue – My question – How do PETE programmes educate future teachers on the area of gender and PE and inclusive pedagogies? How can you research findings influence this in Poland and perhaps elsewhere?

Currently in Poland, in PETE programs, there are no classes dedicated to gender and physical education (PE) or inclusive pedagogies. Also, from the statements of interviewed PE teachers, it appears that they did not acquire knowledge about gender equality or gender-related aspects of education and PE during their own education. We conducted 23 in-depth individual interviews with academic teachers who conduct classes for future physical education teachers. Our research indicates that they lack knowledge regarding the social determinants of gender, potential gender inequalities in the education process, or the transmission of gender stereotypes during PE lessons. Similarly, to PE teachers, differences in attitudes between male and female students (as well as between male and female students) are interpreted through the discourse of gender difference. The lack of knowledge about the social determinants of gender was evident, for example, in teachers’ use of stereotypical division of disciplines by gender, rarely questioning this division. That resulted in differences in the curriculum (female students had more gymnastics classes, male students had more strength sports classes), which was also unproblematic for the informants. Consequently, the studied academic teachers did not perceive factors that sustain or even reinforce gender differences and the rigid, binary division between genders during their studies.


there can be recognized similarities, there are definitely many differences. This seems to be also very cultural aspect from the perspective of teachers’ position in a society (overall) and on the other hand, the role of sport in the culture. Also the relationship between sport and Physical education can be regognized. Congratulations. Interesting study. 

We consider the declining status of the teaching profession and the low position of physical education (PE) among school subjects to be significant for our research findings. Through conducting focus group interviews, we frequently heard that for students (both girls and boys), PE is not a significant subject. PE was perceived as a break from important subjects, from which they will be examined at the end of school. Students were mainly interested in achieving good grades in school, and they always received good grades in PE, regardless of their involvement, so they did not pay much attention to this subject. Students who enjoyed physical activity stated that they engage in commercial extracurricular activities and exercise there with dedication.


Undoubtedly, it is also important to note that in recent years, a political movement with a strong anti-gender equity agenda has been sweeping through Poland (Graff and Korolczuk, 2022), which has resulted in gender-sensitive education not only being unwelcome but also openly discouraged in and outside school settings. A conservative worldview has been introduced into schools and social policies. Attempts were made to redefine the concept of gender equality so that it would be perceived as threatening to society (Graff & Karolczuk, 2022, pp. 3-4). Poland has slipped 9 positions in the Gender Equality Index of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE, 2021) in recent years, indicating a growing conservatism and departure from implementing gender equality in society. However, the recent change in power in Poland may lead to a shift towards liberal values and a focus on gender equality.


Graff, Agnieszka, and Elżbieta Korolczuk. 2022. Anti-gender Politics in the Populist Moment. London: Routledge.

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Cassandra Iannucci

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AIESEP was founded in Lisbon in 1962, with the intent of bringing together scholars in the field of physical education and sport to share knowledge and engage in quality research.

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