Physical Activity and Situational Motivation in Physical Education: Influence of the Motivational Climate and Perceived Ability

Article excerpt

The influence of perceptions of the motivational climate and perceived ability on situational motivation and the physical activity behavior of 213 male and 229 female adolescent physical education students (M age = 12.56 years; SD = 0.96) was examined over a 3-day period. A significant age by gender interaction emerged, with physical activity declining from the sixth to eighth grade. The decline was mare pronounced among female than male students. Perceptions of a mastery climate were strongly related to more self-determined farms of situational motivation. In contrast, perceptions of a performance climate were strongly related to less self-determined forms of situational motivation. Results of a hierarchical regression analysis revealed gender, perceived ability, and perceptions of a mastery climate to explain a significant amount of variance in physical activity. These findings suggest that promoting a mastery oriented motivational climate in physical education will foster self determined situational motiva tion and physical activity.

Key words: achievement goals, self-determination


The Surgeon General's report on physical activity and health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1996) emphasized the importance of regular physical activity on health benefits across the life span, including reducing the risk of heart disease and ameliorating and preventing numerous other disease states such as diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. In addition, physical activity is related to positive mental health and enhanced quality of life (see Biddle, Fox, & Boutcher, 2000). Although adolescents are more active than adults, participation in physical activity declines with age throughout adolescence, especially for girls (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1998; Pate, Long, & Heath, 1994; Rowland, 1990; Stone, McKenzie, Welk, & Booth, 1998). Research has also shown that physical activity or inactivity tracks during early childhood, with less active children tending to remain more so than most of their peers (Pate, Baranowski, Dowda, & Trost, 1996). Recognizing the importa nce of physical activity, Healthy People 2010 recently reported that only 65% of adolescents in grades 9-12 engage in the recommended levels of physical activity, namely 20 min of vigorous physical activity 3 days a week. A stated goal of Healthy People 2010, therefore, is to increase the percentage of adolescents who engage in recommended levels of vigorous physical activity to 85% (USDHHS, 2000). A recent position statement from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE; Corbin & Pangrazi, 1998) is consistent with the theme of Healthy People 2010 and recommends that adolescents engage in 30 mm of moderate activity on most days. Whether targeting vigorous or moderate activity, the growing concerns over the inactivity of America's youth has led some researchers to identify physical education as an important infrastructure for promoting healthy physical activity patterns during childhood and adolescence (Stone et al., 1998).

School-based physical education should provide an environment that encourages physical activity strategies and behaviors in which youngsters can engage during childhood and adolescence and continue into adulthood (USDHHS, 1997; Sallis & McKenzie, 1991; Sallis et al., 1992). The mere presence of physical education in the curriculum, however, does not guarantee activity. Simons-Morton, Taylor, Snider, Wei Huang, and Fulton (1994) reported that, in a sample of elementary school physical education classes, students spent only 8.6% of class time participating in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. At the middle school level, physical education classes consisted of 16.4% moderate-to-vigorous physical activity participation. These statistics are lower than the estimated national average of 27% (USDHHS, 1997), but all data are significantly below the recommended minimum of 50% of class time spent being physically active (USDHHS, 1997). …