Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Fourth-Grade Students' Motivational Changes in an Elementary Physical Education Running Program

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Fourth-Grade Students' Motivational Changes in an Elementary Physical Education Running Program

Article excerpt

Achievement goal theory and the expectancy-value model of achievement choice were used to examine fourth-grade students' motivational changes in an elementary physical education running program. In fall and spring of the school year, participants (N = 113; 66 boys, 47 girls) completed questionnaires assessing achievement goals, expectancy beliefs, subjective task values, and intention for future running participation. They also completed a timed 1-mile (1.6 km) run. The number of laps they ran/walked during the school year was used to assess students' persistence/effort. Results indicated the students improved their run but became less motivated about running while participating in a year-long running program. Children's beliefs about how good they were in the running program (i.e., expectancy beliefs) and their perceptions of how interesting and fun it was (i.e., interest) emerged as the strongest positive predictors of their motivation for running over time. These findings provide strong empirical evidence that expectancy beliefs and interest are essential to children's motivation in elementary physical education.

Key words: achievement goals, children, expectancy-value theory, running motivation


Promoting physical activity and physically active lifestyles among children and adults represents an important goal for public health in this country, and school physical education is recognized as an important part of this journey. To maintain and enhance children's physical activity levels, many schools in Texas have established running programs in their physical education curricula. Regular running can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and obesity, enhance perceived competence and self-esteem (Sachs & Buffone, 1997), and represent a lifelong activity to stay physically fit. These school running programs usually require students to run/walk in their regularly scheduled physical education classes once, twice, or three times a week over the school year. Given the significant roles these running programs might play to enhance children's physical activity, researchers have begun to pay attention to and assist physical education teachers in designing programs in which all children might be equally motivated to participate and benefit from regular running. For example, in earlier studies we found that children who valued a running program were more likely to continue in the future (Xiang, McBride, & Bruene, 2004). We also found that parental beliefs in the value of the running program also contributed to continued participation (Xiang, McBride, & Bruene, 2003). Finally, we noted that boys and girls did not differ on mean scores of the motivational variables and the 1-mile (1.6 km) run (Xiang, McBride, & Bruene, 2004). However, because we only measured children's motivation at one time, our ability to examine how their motivation might change over time was limited. Therefore, this study examined children's motivational changes as a result of participation in a year-long running program. Achievement goal theory and an expectancy-value model of achievement choice served as the theoretical frameworks, as these two perspectives have proven fruitful in explaining students' motivation in physical education (Xiang, McBride, Guan, & Solmon, 2003; Xiang, McBride, & Bruene, 2004).

Achievement Goal Theory

In recent years, achievement goal theory has been recognized as an important theoretical approach to understanding student motivation and behavior in physical education. Achievement goals refer to the purposes students perceive for engaging in achievement-related behaviors and the meanings they ascribe to those behaviors (Ames, 1992; Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1989). They can influence how students approach, experience, and perform in achievement settings.

Researchers (see Chen, 2001) in physical education have focused primarily on two major goal types: (a) task-involved, which focus on developing one's competence through learning and task mastery, (b) and ego-involved, which focus on demonstrating one's superiority over others. …

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