Lawson (1988) describes occupational socialization as “all kinds of socialization that initially influence persons to enter the field of Physical Education (PE) and are responsible for their perspectives and practices as teacher educators and teachers” (p. 107). In addition, the theoretical framework of occupational socialization explains the process of socialization into PE teaching and research on PE Teacher Education (Lawson, 1983; Stroot & Williamson, 1993). However, there has been little research on choosing PE as a career which has been informed and guided by occupational socialization theory. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the impact of acculturation on a career choice and to investigate how this impact was mediated by PE teachers’ biographies. In addition, this study explored PE teachers’ personal attributes, sport participation, influence by significant others on occupational choice, and other occupational factors.
The participants were one elementary and three middle school PE teachers (1 female, 3 males; age range 26-40). Data were collected from field notes during passive participant observations, two semi-structured formal interviews and informal interviews, and document analysis of self-reflective posters to gain an understanding of why the participants wanted to become PE teachers.
Data were analyzed using analytic induction and constant comparison (Patton, 2002).Trustworthiness of data was established through triangulation, peer debriefing, and member checks. Results indicated that the participants had extensive backgrounds in sport with the majority participating in organized sports during high school. The participants’ socialization into physical education was influenced by situational and social factors, such as positive experiences with a teacher or a coach, positive support by family, and the participants’ strong beliefs in the value of physical education.
The results of this study give detailed picture about the personal attributes of PE teachers. In addition, they provide information about socialization factors, significant others and sport participation during high school years, that shape the participants’ perceptions and beliefs about teaching as their careers. Influences from sport-participation situations may explain why the participants chose PE teaching. Research in PE teacher socialization reveals that prospective PE teachers participate in sport, often beginning at young ages (Wright, 2001), which is in line with the present study’s results. Understanding the significance of these experiences on PE teachers’ career decisions may serve to guide teacher educators to improve the effectiveness of Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programs.