Children's Motivation in Elementary Physical Education: An Expectancy-Value Model of Achievement Choice. (Pedagogy)

Article excerpt

This study examined children's motivation in elementary physical education within an expectancy-value model developed by Eccles and her colleagues. Four hundred fourteen students in second and fourth grades completed questionnaires assessing their expectancy-related beliefs, subjective task values, and intention for future participation in physical education. Results indicated that expectancy-related beliefs and subjective task values were clearly distinguishable from one another across physical education and throwing. The two constructs were related to each other positively. Children's intention for future participation in physical education was positively associated with their subjective task values and/or expectancy-related beliefs. Younger children had higher motivation for learning in physical education than older children. Gender differences emerged, and the findings provided empirical evidence supporting the validity of the expectancy-value model in elementary physical education.

Key words: expectancy beliefs, grade differences, subjective task values


A large body of research reveals that lack of physical activity has led to an exceptionally high rate of children who are overweight and obese. It consequently leads to an increase in coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and depression in their future. Although school physical education has the potential to increase children's daily physical activity levels (Sallis et al., 1992), children's motivation to participate in physical education actually declines over the school years (Van Wersch, Trew, & Turner, 1992). As a key facilitator to achievement behavior, motivation can be defined as the energization, direction, and regulation of behavior (Roberts, 2001). To counter the lack of motivation in school physical education, it is important that we understand how motivational processes evolve in young children.

The current theoretical approaches used to investigate children's motivational processes include self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997) and achievement goal theory (Ames, 1992; Duda, 1996; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Nicholls, 1989). These frameworks have provided valuable insight into how to structure task-oriented class climates to increase student engagement. An assumption of these approaches is that achievement tasks are valued. There is evidence, however, that this assumption may not be supported, especially in secondary physical education (Cothran & Ennis, 1998). As Wigfield and Eccles (1992) pointed Out, the construct of achievement value received relatively little attention as compared to other constructs in various theories of achievement motivation, and this is especially true in physical education. When the conceptualization of motivation includes not only the energization and direction of behavior, but also the regulation of behavior over time (Roberts, 2001), we believe that the expectancy-value model (Eccles, 1987; Eccles et al., 1983; Eccles, Adler, & Meece, 1984; Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998; Wigfield, 1994; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992) represents a viable theoretical approach to exploring children's achievement motivation in physical education.

Eccles and her colleagues proposed that children's expectancy-related beliefs and subjective task values influence their achievement-related decisions about engaging in particular activities, the amount of effort exerted, persistence, and performance. The researchers also postulated that early achievement and socialization experiences and cultural norms influence how children construe, interpret, and approach achievement. A review of the full model can be found in Eccles et al. (1983) and Meece, Parsons, Kaczala, Goff, and Futterman (1982).

Investigating elementary school children's expectations and values using the expectancy-value model may enhance our understanding about children's development of motivational values and expectancy in physical activity. …