Student Motivation in Physical Education and Engagement in Physical Activity

Article excerpt

The mediating processes paradigm provides a lens for understanding and interpreting how motivational constructs mediate teacher behaviors and student learning. This framework is a "response-oriented" approach that grew out of the unidirectional process-product paradigm of the 1960's (Doyle, p. 170, 1977). Mediating constructs, such as student interest, social background, prior knowledge and beliefs, and the classroom context have been explored in attempts to explain more of the "why," or in what context, learning occurs. Student learning characteristics and the instructional setting are the essential features of the mediating process paradigm.

The cognitive mediational paradigm provides a framework for the study of student attitudes and perceptions (Solmon, 2003). Students are recognized as active and controlling agents in the learning process. They enter with varying backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences that serve as filters through which they interpret instruction and make meaning of classroom experiences. Based on prior experiences, students form attitudes that are theorized to be powerful influences on decisions they make about engaging in activity. Perceptions and attitudes are important mediators between teacher actions and what students learn and do. Positive attitudes are associated with adaptive motivational behaviors and exerting effort. Negative attitudes are expected to result in a reluctance to engage in activities (Solmon, 2003).

Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) provides a theoretical framework to study student motivation. Motivation is conceptualized as a continuum ranging from amotivation, or a lack of motivation to intrinsic motivation, defined as engaging in an activity as an end in itself. In between a motivation and intrinsic motivation, varying levels of extrinsic motivation reflect increasing levels of self-determination. When individuals take part only due to the threat of punishment or for a reward of some kind, they are at a level of external regulation (Standage, Treasure, Duda, & Prusak, 2003). Introjected regulation is characterized by recognizing some level of value in an activity, but feeling as though one "ought" to participate out of guilt or obligation. Identified regulation is the level at which participants see the outcome as beneficial and they begin to participate because they want to. Integrated regulation represents a level where the activity is part of the individual's identity and is relevant to higher goals, though it may still be somewhat extrinsically motivated (Biddle, 1999). Intrinsic motivation is the highest level of self-determination whereby an individual participates in an activity simply for the sake of the activity itself (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Unfortunately, much of the research in the area of motivation finds that participation in physical activity is often not intrinsically motivated (Ryan, Frederick, Lepes, Rubio, & Sheldon, 1997). Higher levels of self-determination and autonomy are more likely to elicit long-term motivated behavior.

Attitude is a factor that should be examined when investigating motivation levels because of its potential link to participation, or lack thereof, in physical activity. Attitudes are often based on experiences and events from childhood (Brustad, 1991) and attitude formation is largely shaped by the fundamental beliefs that an individual holds (Ajzen, 1988, 1993). Essentially, individuals' beliefs influence their attitudes toward certain things. Perceptions and attitudes are important mediators between teacher actions and what students learn and do (Solmon, 2003).

Used extensively throughout the literature, the term attitude is often banal and its definition, in psychometric terms, is often unclear. Frequently in attitude-related studies only one component of attitude is examined. However, this construct includes more than just one single aspect (Subramaniam & Silverman, 2000). …