Stages of Change and Physical Education Assessment

By Ciccomascolo, Lori; Riebe, Deborah | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Stages of Change and Physical Education Assessment


Ciccomascolo, Lori, Riebe, Deborah, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Physical educators continually search for new ways to assess student learning and performance. Although a number of teachers rely on observation as a form of assessment, more objective measures provide better information regarding student outcomes. Effective assessment gives credibility to a physical education program because it demonstrates that teachers have structured student goals based on the objectives of the physical education curriculum.

Two common barriers to effectively implementing either traditional or alternative assessments are lack of time and overcrowded physical education classes (Gallo, Sheehy, Patton, & Griffin, 2006). However, by implementing a new type of alternative assessment, physical educators can overcome time and class-size challenges.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how to use the stages of change model of health behavior change (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983) to assess physical activity in a physical education setting. The stages of change (SOC) model is often used to understand how individuals change their health behavior--such as adopting regular physical activity--and has been widely used in both an adult and adolescent population for over three decades (Schumann et al., 2002). The SOC model is one of the most influential theoretical models (Greene et al., 1999) and is currently being applied to a wide range of behaviors and in a variety of ways (Prochaska, 2007). A physical educator can easily use the SOC model to assess how a particular type of curriculum or unit affects a student's readiness to adopt physical activity.

Stage of Change Framework

The SOC model suggests that individuals do not change all at once, but instead move through a series of stages representing their level of readiness to change. People must first move through the early stages where motivation and commitment are developed before actually taking action and changing their behavior (Riebe & Nigg, 1998). The SOC model consists of five stages of exercise-behavior change, which are described in table 1.

Measuring Stage of Change

Stage of change is a quick, simple, self-reported measure of readiness to change physical activity habits. Using a series of short statements, students identify which stage they are in based on whether they have met a specific physical activity goal or on their readiness to meet that goal. In research, the stage of change is usually assessed before and after an intervention designed to increase physical activity. The physical educator can use the model before and after a specific unit. For example, at the beginning of a fitness walking unit, a student may place himself or herself in the contemplation stage, and after the unit, the student may identify with the preparation stage. At the end of the unit, the physical educator can assess how his or her students have moved through the stages (or not); therefore, the students' readiness to adopt physical activity as well as the unit's effectiveness in bringing about the stage change can be assessed.

One of the most critical parts of assessing SOC is to determine a clear definition of the physical activity's or unit's specific goal. The physical educator can define physical activity in general terms or can define a specific unit plan that is currently being taught. For example, if the students are participating in a fitness walking unit, the teacher can define physical activity as walking twice a week for 30 minutes during physical education class and once outside of class for 30 minutes. The teacher can also follow the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's (2004) recommendations for physical activity for children (ages 5-12), which is 60 minutes a day. The definition of physical activity specifies the type and amount of exercise that students should engage in, in order to determine the stage the student is in before and after the unit. For those students who are either completely sedentary or exercising at a level below the goal set by the physical educator, the intention to start exercising at the specified level is determined (i.

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