Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Glenda Campbell-Evans

Second Advisor

Dr. Lynn Embrey

Third Advisor

Dr. Len King


This study investigated the impact of the expectations of significant others in the school setting on the promotional aspirations of female physical education teachers in government secondary schools in Western Australia. It explored the ways in which meanings and expectations in the school environment are constructed in relation to wider societal values and ideologies, and how they are negotiated in social settings that are characterised by both constraints and opportunities for action. Despite the equitable proportion of females and males teaching the subject, and the absence of Education Department policy constraints on female promotion since 1972, females remain significantly underrepresented at Head of Department level. In 1995, women held only two (2.7%) of the 73 substantive appointments. The critical paradigm adopted for the study and the research methodology was qualitative. The research design comprised five interrelated and sequential phases. During phase 1, preliminary data was gathered on the perceived essential skills and qualities required by Heads of Department in physical education. Phase 2 involved in-depth interviews in order to document government school female teachers' own accounts of their lives, career aspirations and the expectations of significant others in the context of the school and wider social world; and the accounts of female teachers' significant others with regard to their perceptions and expectations concerning female leadership. During Phase 3, interviews were conducted with female Heads of Department in nongovernment schools to ascertain system differences which may have led to the greater number of these women in the leadership role. Follow-up interviews with the government school female teachers were conducted during phase 4 of the study, and served to clarify and validate findings. Female physical education teachers considering applying for promotion also emerged as a sample group during the course of the study, and these women participated in a group discussion forum. The sample comprised government school female and male physical education teachers and Heads of Department of physical education and nongovernment school female Heads of Department of physical education. The study aimed to build on the findings of my previous, exploratory research regarding factors contributing to the underrepresentation of females at Head of Department level in physical education (Bloat, 1992); to sensitise the participants to the nature, construction and impact of expectations regarding female leadership; and to develop recommendations to redress the imbalance of female Heads of Department in physical education in government schools. The findings of the study confirmed that the expectations of significant others in the school setting have a powerful impact on the promotional aspirations of female physical educators. Expectations regarding the appropriateness of female leadership in physical education were constructed on the basis of individuals1 interactions with the social system, characterised by a male paradigm, male dominance and male power. These expectations were communicated to female teachers by means of chauvinism; exclusion; the lower status accorded women in Physical Education Departments; the lack of both encouragement towards promotion, and female role models to demonstrate the opportunities for women; and the fact that the leadership role is more difficult for females. They impacted on the carter development of female physical educators by constraining the women's promotional aspirations. Finally, recommendations based on the findings are made primarily to the Education Department, but also to teacher education institutions and female physical educators. The suggested measures to address the problem focus on the need to move beyond mere policy change. The recognition and valuing of feminine leadership; the establishment of targets for increasing female representation; the identification and sponsorship of potential female candidates; and the introduction of a five year contract for Heads of Department are among the essential strategies needed to stimulate and nurture the promotional aspirations of female physical educators.

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