The Health, Exercise, and Sport Science (HESS) faculty at Texas Tech University, along with many of its graduate and undergraduate students, have been working with overweight youth since the Fun & Fit program launched in 2004. The collaborative effort between Tech and the Lubbock Independent School District, funded by a Carol M. White Physical Education grant from the United States Department of Education, was designed to create positive experiences in physical activity and promote healthy lifestyle choices among overweight minority children. It also provided a service-learning opportunity, giving HESS students plentiful opportunities to hone their teaching skills and interact with diverse children while providing benefits to an underserved population.
The two primary goals of Fun & Fit were to create an atmosphere and structure in which the third, fourth, and fifth graders experienced enjoyment and success in physical activities, and to increase their nutritional knowledge during the twice-a-week, 90-minute sessions. The philosophy of the curriculum was based on social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986), which suggests that an individual's behavior is influenced through interactive effects of environment and self-efficacy beliefs (Schunk, 2001).
Based on this principle, activity lessons and nutritional education are delivered via a mastery motivational climate (MMC) in which Texas Tech students serve as both mentors and instructors for the participants. Investigations examining the impact of the Fun & Fit program have demonstrated that participants enjoy their involvement, gain confidence through physical activity, increase their knowledge of health and nutrition, and are motivated by and admire the Texas Tech students (Meaney, Hart, & Griffin, 2009).
A MMC promotes learning by encouraging learners to adopt mastery goal orientations (Valentini, Rudisill, & Goodway, 1999). Adopting mastery goal orientations enables learners to attribute success to effort. Therefore, increasing one's effort will result in a successful performance. In addition, a mastery goal orientation values the learning process and increases one's confidence and self-efficacy toward learning new skills. Teachers who attend to and individualize children's expectations and rewards can successfully create a MMC within a physical activity setting. Moreover, Valentini and colleagues have applied the six components of the classroom intervention program--TARGET (Task-Authority-Recognition-Grouping-Evaluation-Time) originally developed by Ames (1992) for physical education instruction.
Adapting the Task to accommodate all children is vital when nurturing a MMC. Tasks must be structured to optimally challenge students of varied skill levels. Teaching by invitation, exploration, and problem-solving instructional approaches promotes developmentally appropriate task challenges for all children. This type of instruction has been termed teaching via the "slanted rope effect" (Moston & Ashworth, 1994) and provides children with individual starting points and benchmarks for success. In a MMC, Authority is shared by the teacher and the children. In other words, children have a voice in elements of day-to-day decision-making during class. Decisions by children may include choosing tasks, equipment, and activities. Children may also have a voice in developing physical education rules and consequences for non-adherence to designated rules and guidelines. Teacher directed Recognition of students must focus on increasing children's intrinsic motivation for participation. Consequently, verbal praise, tangible rewards, and enticements should be given in such a way that social comparison among children is minimized. Grouping within a MMC framework enables children of varied skill levels to cooperate in collaborative efforts to accomplish goals. A MMC also provides frequent opportunities for teachers and children to …