Role Modeling Attitudes and Physical Activity and Fitness Promoting Behaviors of HPERD Professionals and Preprofessionals

By Cardinal, Bradley J. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Role Modeling Attitudes and Physical Activity and Fitness Promoting Behaviors of HPERD Professionals and Preprofessionals


Cardinal, Bradley J., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Key words: role-related behavior, social cognitive theory, socialization, survey

For at least 60 years, leaders in health, physical education, recreation, and dance (HPERD) have observed, described, and discussed a "do as I say, not as I do" physical activity paradox within the field (McCloy, 1940; Staffo & Stier, 2000). That is, while some members of the profession espouse to others the value of living a physically active lifestyle, they do not partake in physical activity on a regular basis themselves (Davis, 1999; Melville, 1999). The majority of early papers written on this issue were in the form of personal observations and opinion papers (Corbin, 1984; Wilmore, 1982). In recent years, more substantive papers have been published on this topic, including codes of ethics (Hilgenkamp, 1998; International Dance-Exercise Association, 1988; O'Connell & Taylor, 1994) and a position statement (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1994). These documents express the need for all HPERD professionals and preprofessionals to serve as role models of physical activity and fitness -promoting behaviors to enhance their personal effectiveness and promote physical activity in society as a whole.

The theoretical basis for role modeling derives from Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986) and, more specifically, the modeling construct within Social Cognitive Theory. Modeling refers to an individual's ability to learn by observing the actions of others and the results of those actions. Modeling is affected by the salience and complexity of a given activity and the credibility and relevance of the model. Because teachers are typically regarded as highly relevant and credible models for children (Cohen, 1980), they have the power to profoundly affect children's attitudes and behaviors. The modeling construct has been supported within HPERD. For example, in a study of sixth through eighth grade school children, Gilmer, Speck, Bradley, Harrell, and Belyea (1996) found teachers and coaches to be the most frequently cited nonfamily member adult role models. In an experimental study, Melville and Maddalozzo (1988) found a physical education teacher who appeared to be physically fit had a more positive influen ce on high school students' academic performance and behavioral intentions to exercise, compared to a physical education teacher who appeared to be physically unfit.

So, what are the role modeling attitudes and practices of HPERD professionals and preprofessionals? Most studies aimed at examining this question have attempted to describe the fitness levels (Brandon & Evans, 1988; Cardinal, 1995; Clark, Blair, & Culan, 1988; Loucks, 1976; Melville & Cardinal, 1988), physical activity behaviors (Dinger, Massie, & Ransdell, 2000; Karper & Digman, 1983; Nakamura & Lescault, 1983; Whitley, Sage, & Butcher, 1988), and other health indicators (Jenkins & Olsen, 1994) of small samples of HPERD professionals and preprofessionals, and the results of these studies have been equivocal. For example, some authors have reported high levels of physical activity among HPERD professionals (Brandon & Evans, 1988), while others have reported low levels of physical activity (Whitley et al., 1988). Likewise, some authors have reported above average levels of fitness for HPERD preprofessionals (Loucks, 1976), while others have reported below average levels of fitness for preprofessionals (Cardin al, 1995). Moreover, few studies have attempted to assess role-modeling attitudes of HPERD professionals' or preprofessionals directly or in a systematic manner. In two studies aimed at treating childhood obesity, however, most physical education professionals (Price, Sesmond, & Ruppert, 1990) and preprofessionals (Savage, 1995) surveyed believed they could help treat childhood obesity by role modeling physical activity and fitness-promoting behaviors and maintaining a normal body weight. …

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