Different is cool! Self-efficacy and participation of students with and without disabilities in school-based Physical Education

Abstract: Background: Self-efficacy predicts school achievement. Participation is important for life outcomes. Functioning affects to what degree you can participate in everyday life situations. Participation-related constructs such as self-efficacy and functioning work both as a means of participation and as an end outcome. Learning takes place in this interrelationship. How relationships between participation and these constructs vary, depending on whether impacted by disability or not, how they develop over time and outcomes of these processes need to be explored.Method: In this three-year longitudinal study developmental processes of student self-efficacy (PE specific and general), aptitude to participate and functioning were explored. The context is school-based Physical Education (PE) in mainstream inclusive secondary school in Sweden. Data was collected from student and teacher questionnaires and observations of PE lessons. Students self-rated their perceived self-efficacy, aptitude to participate and functioning in school years seven and nine. Teachers self-rated their teaching skills. Student engagement, teaching behaviors, interactions and activities in Swedish school-based PE were observed in year eight. Relationships between the constructs and how they develop over time were studied in a total sample of 450 students (aged 12,5-15,5). Specifically focusing on three student groups, students with diagnosed disabilities (n=30), students with low grades in PE (n=36), and students with high grades (n=53) in PE.Results: Adapted instruments to measure self-efficacy (PE specific and general), aptitude to participate in PE, and functional skills (physical and socio-cognitive were developed and validated. PE specific self-efficacy is closely related to the aptitude to participate and has effects on student engagement and general self-efficacy. Over time PE specific self-efficacy increase in adolescents, but students with disabilities initially responded negatively if their PE teachers rated their teaching skills high. They were also more sensitive to the social environment, which was associated with PE grades over time. During this time the relationship between perceived physical functional skills and PE specific self-efficacy accelerated for students with disabilities. They were observed to be equally highly engaged in PE lessons as their peers. However, students with disabilities were observed to be closer to their teacher and tended to be less social and alone than their peers. Observed teaching skills as measured by level of alignment with syllabus, and affective tone when giving instructions showed differences in complexity and efficiency. Students in the study sample were more engaged in high-level teaching and were more frequently in communicative proximity to their teacher. In conditions of high-level teaching, teachers gave more instructions and used more materials for teaching purposes. Lessons were more often structured into whole group activities and lessons were more focused.Conclusion: PE specific self-efficacy measures students’ perceived knowledge and skills in PE and is related to students’ aptitude to participate, general self-efficacy and functioning. The overall findings imply that the developmental processes of perceived self-efficacy (PE specific and general), aptitude to participate and functioning differ between the student groups. PE specific self-efficacy and socio-cognitive functioning improve over time in all groups. Stronger associations of PE specific self-efficacy with aptitude to participate and functional skills, and weaker with general self-efficacy were found in students with disabilities compared to their typically functioning peers. Individual factors are vital to learning, but students with disabilities seem to be more sensitive to environmental factors than their peers. The aptitude to participate declines in students with disabilities, probably due to their experience of having physical restrictions. However, while participating in PE, they were similarly relatively highly engaged as their typically functioning peers. Instructions in PE indicate differences in complexity and efficiency of PE teaching. More complex lesson content requires more  instructions and more purposeful materials. Time was used more efficiently in high-level teaching conditions. Lessons were more focused and had more flow, leaving students with less time to socialize. Space was also used more efficiently, and teachers were closer to their students. Indicating that more individual support, feed-back and feedforward was provided. Students with disabilities were more frequently close to their teacher than their typically functioning peers. The use of more whole group formats indicate that teaching is more differentiated in high-level teaching. When activating students physically, teachers may choose simpler self-sustaining activities, i.e. sports games. Small group formats may be used for individual development of motor skills or drills.