Formative Evaluation of MyFit: A Curriculum to Promote Self-Regulation of Physical Activity among Middle School Students

Article excerpt

Background: Previous interventions to increase physical activity among middle school students have not produced long-term results. Often, students lack the self-regulation skills needed to support long-term adherence to physical activity. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to conduct a formative evaluation of a self-regulation based physical activity intervention (MyFit) targeting middle school students. The evaluation addressed 3 foci. The first focus was student learning and the use of self-regulation strategies for physical activity. The second was teacher perceptions of the feasibility of the MyFit program. The final focus was student perceptions of the acceptability of the MyFit program. Methods: Seventeen lessons were developed to target self-monitoring, social support, environmental aids, reinforcement, self-efficacy, and tailoring. A one-group pretest--posttest design was used. Results: Students had sufficient knowledge test scores and reported significant increases in the use of self-regulation skills. The teacher and students also provided useful feedback for the refinement of the MyFit program. Discussion: This study provided valuable data for MyFit content and delivery refinement. Translation to Health Education Practice: Formative evaluation methods were useful to refine the MyFit curriculum. The MyFit curriculum is useful for school-based practitioners as a way to increase self-regulation skills to improve adherence to physical activity.

BACKGROUND

The American Heart Association has identified physical inactivity as one of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease. (1) The 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health reported that physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general and coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, and diabetes mellitus specifically. (2) Although most of these benefits have been documented in adult populations, research shows that habitual physical activity also benefits children, (3-5) and regular physical activity has been recommended for the prevention and treatment of obesity and cardiovascular disease in adolescents. (6,7)

Increasing regular physical activity among youth is a challenge. A comprehensive review identified 22 published studies of school-based physical activity programs and revealed that these interventions have no impact or produce a small increase in minutes of physical activity during physical education classes. (8) These programs have yet to demonstrate an increase in physical activity outside the classroom. Baranowski and Jago have suggested that the lack of impact of these programs may be due to lack of demonstrated impact on theory-based mediators of physical activity. (9) They urged researchers to use formative evaluation methods to precisely assess the effects of programs in the classroom. Critical questions including the following: "Is the program acceptable to teachers and students?" and "What is the actual impact of the program on targeted educational objectives?" Failure to use formative evaluation methods to refine health programs may be an important reason for the limited effectiveness of these school-based interventions. (10)

Formative evaluation can be an important tool for the development of theory-based interventions. Formative evaluation methods are designed to provide evidence-based feedback to refine interventions. This method is useful for assessing educators' perceptions of feasibility, students' perceptions of acceptability, and the degree of learning the intervention produces in the intended audience. Refinement can enhance instructional effectiveness, program acceptance, and program maintenance. (11-13)

PURPOSE

The purpose of this study was to conduct a formative evaluation of a self-regulation based physical activity intervention (MyFit) targeting middle school students. In order to refine instructional impact and curriculum acceptability. …