By Martin, Matt; Sharpe, Tom
Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators , Vol. 22, No. 3
One of the ongoing challenges that physical educators, coaches, and fitness professionals face is discovering and implementing motivational strategies that encourage long-term participation and effort. This challenge exists in public school physical education classes, on the playing field, and in structured adult physical activity settings.
A wealth of research exists that correlates participation in regular physical activity with the prevention of many health-related diseases (Salmon, Bauman, Crawford, Timperio, & Owen, 2000). Participation in daily exercise in physical education, sport, and structured exercise settings is one appealing avenue for promoting lifelong fitness and regular physical activity (McKenzie et al., 1996, Sallis & McKenzie, 1991). Current research shows, however, that many children and adults are not getting the recommended amount of daily physical activity for optimum health (McCambridge et al., 2006; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Though not explicitly correlated, as a function of nonparticipation many children are also exhibiting signs and symptoms of a range of chronic diseases including: Type II diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol levels (ADA 2000, Tercyak & Tyc, 2006). A primary challenge for physical educators and health professionals, therefore, is one of increasing motivation and participation effort during the range of games, sports, and fitness activities.
One appealing strategy to overcome this challenge is public posting. Public posting in academic and sport settings has generally involved a publicly displayed record of performance for all participants to view and review on a regular basis before and after completing lessons in physical education, practices on the athletic field, and participation in structured exercise classes (Martin, et al., 1984; Ward, Smith, Makasci, & Crouch, 1998, Ward, Smith, & Sharpe, 1997). Posting of positive practices and successful completion of activities in the classroom is also a widely used method of reducing off-task or disruptive behavior by recognizing publicly, students and/or class groups and athletes that are behaving according to the class/team rules and the teacher or coach's instruction (Balderson & Sharpe, 2005).
Many physical education teachers currently use public posting to motivate students to be physically active in class and during non-school hours. For example, one physical educator working at an elementary school in the midwest posts daily pedometer step totals achieved in the gymnasium. Specifically, the physical educator posts pedometer step totals by squads (predetermined groups by class and grade level), rather than posting individual student totals to avoid focusing on individual student performance which may embarrass or discourage students who are not in good physical condition. The physical education teacher also stated that posting daily squad step totals promotes teamwork and encouragement within the squads.
Another successful motivational tool is posting information on websites. Physical education websites have been used to post and track student's daily physical activity time, record the type of exercise completed, and make group and individual exercise goals and recommendations (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 is an example of a website template that can be used to monitor and track students' daily physical activity levels. Posting physical activity information on physical education/school websites allows students to monitor their physical activity levels as well as encourages their peers to be physically active every day. Rewards such as t-shirts and certificates of achievement also can be used to build enthusiasm and encourage students to get involved in web-based physical activity programs. In addition, physical educators can provide the students individually prescribed goals and suggestions based on individual information posted on the website (e. …