High School Physical Education: Satisfaction of the Basic Psychological Needs and the Experience of Flow.
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Introduction: The present study aimed at identifying factors promoting enjoyable and positive experiences in PE. The study explored associations between elements of Self- Determination Theory (SDT) and the experience of flow. Special attention was given to sex differences. Methods: The sample comprised 167 senior high school students (78 females and 89 males) who completed a questionnaire after having participated in a PE class. Results: The majority of students experienced levels of flow that can be characterised as high. More boys than girls reported high levels of flow. The basic psychological needs and autonomous motivation were positively and statistically significantly correlated with total flow for the entire sample. For the sample split by sex autonomy no longer correlated with total flow. The independent variables explained 25% and 15% of the variance in total flow for girls and boys respectively. Autonomous motivation had the largest contribution in the explained variance for girls, and self-perceived competence had the largest contribution for boys. Further analyses explored the sex differences through interaction effects, but no such effects were found. Discussion: PE is regarded as a popular subject, which can explain the high prevalence of flow reported in the present study. However, a smaller proportion of the student body did not report to experience flow, and more girls than boys belonged to this group of students. Much indicates that PE is more adjusted to boys, an example from this study being that also self-perceived competence varied between the sexes with more boys than girls reporting to feel competent. Conclusion: If PE was more individually tailored with more differentiated activities it would probably increase the likelihood that each student felt more competent at their own level. As a result, the experience of flow might happen more readily resulting in positive experiences in PE.