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IES Grant

Title: Increasing Classroom Teachers' Implementation and Sustained Use of Classroom-Based Physical Activity Breaks as a Strategy to Improve Academic Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Turner, Lindsey Awardee: Boise State University
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Context for Teaching and Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015 – 6/30/2019) Award Amount: $1,496,373
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A150277

Purpose: The project team developed and tested a training and support package to boost teachers' implementation and sustained use of physical activity breaks in elementary school classrooms as one way to improve students' academic performance. Brief breaks in instruction for classroom-based physical activity (CBPA) are hypothesized to improve students' attention and increase time on task, which in turn should improve learning and performance. Traditional methods of providing opportunities for physical activity in schools such as physical education classes are important but insufficient for providing daily movement opportunities, leading to the recommendation that schools promote CBPA on a daily basis. CBPA is promising for increasing students' levels of physical activity and improving time on task, but many teachers do not implement these strategies.

Project Activities: The team identified and tested strategies to promote teacher implementation of a freely available, research-based CBPA program, the Energizers curriculum. The team then tested these implementation support strategies individually to determine acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary effectiveness for modifying teacher attitudes and implementation outcomes. They also tested strategies to promote school-wide support for implementation. Researchers carried out a final pilot test to determine whether the enhanced training package increased teachers' implementation of CBPA above and beyond the curriculum alone, and whether the support package improved students' classroom behavior and academic outcomes.

Key Outcomes: The main features of the intervention and findings of the project's pilot study are as follows:

Iterative development, feasibility/usability testing

Pilot of promise

  • Teachers with greater implementation of CBPA had students with higher school day step counts, higher moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels, and less sedentary time during the school day. Girls and boys were equal in levels of physical activity during CBPA opportunities (whereas there were gender differences in activity levels during PE and recess).
  • There were no short-term changes in cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, processing speed, or episodic memory (as measured by the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognition Battery) after students participated in bouts of moderate-to-vigorous intensity CBPA.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study took place in four rural and suburban school districts in Idaho.

Sample: Participants included 181 K to 6th grade teachers and their students in ten public elementary schools.

Intervention: The intervention developed in this project is an implementation support package to increase teachers' implementation of classroom-based physical activity (CBPA), which includes movement breaks as well as physical activity integrated with lesson content. The package is intended to be flexible and useful for increasing the implementation of any program designed to foster CBPA in elementary school classrooms. In this study, the research team used Energizers, a readily available, free, evidence-based curriculum. The implementation support package consists of several components: strategies that target teachers' knowledge and attitudes; providing tailored feedback to teachers in the form of tip sheets and custom feedback about objectively-measured student physical activity levels; professional learning communities (PLCs) to promote collaboration, connectedness, and support for implementation; and embedded peer mentoring with physical education teachers serving as coaches.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, researchers examined how teacher characteristics were associated with CBPA implementation. In Year 2, the research team tested specific implementation support strategies. In Year 3, the team completed a non-randomized pilot study with five schools using a quasi-experimental design (three schools receiving the implementation support strategies and the Energizers curriculum; and two schools receiving Energizers and a basic professional development training only) to determine whether the support strategies increased implementation of CBPA more than the curriculum alone.

Control Condition: Two schools in the comparison group received the CBPA curriculum and a two-hour training before the beginning of the school year.

Key Measures: The research team measured implementation fidelity with teacher self-reported CBPA tracking logs each week and validated those implementation outcomes with accelerometers to objectively measure students' physical activity. They assessed student education outcomes using the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognition Battery, observations of time on task in the classroom, and standardized achievement test scores.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers used an inductive approach to analyze qualitative data from interviews. The team used descriptive statistics and regression models to assess pre-post changes on teacher surveys gathered at multiple time points. They explored whether teacher characteristics were associated with intent to implement and actual implementation. They used mixed-effects models to assess the impact of the enhanced training on weekly implementation dosage, fidelity, and student education outcomes. The team used latent class analysis to identify groups of teachers with different patterns of implementation over time and used mediation analyses to determine whether changes in teacher attitudes such as self-efficacy mediated the impact of the intervention on implementation fidelity.

Project website:

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Bejarano, C. M., Snow, K., Lane, H., Calvert, H., Hoppe, K., Alfonsin, N., Turner, L. & Carlson, J. A. (2019). Development of a novel tool for assessing coverage of implementation factors in health promotion program resources. Preventive Medicine Reports, 15.

Calvert, H. G., Barcelona, J. M., Melville, D., & Turner, L. (2019). Effects of acute physical activity on NIH toolbox-measured cognitive functions among children in authentic education settings. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 17, 100293.

Calvert, H. G., Lane, H. G., Bejarano, C., Snow, K., Hoppe, K., Alfonsin, N., Turner, L., & Carlson, J (2018). An evaluation of the coverage of theoretically-based implementation factors in disseminated classroom physical activity programs. Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Calvert, H. G., Mahar, M. T., Flay, B., & Turner, L. (2018). Classroom-based physical activity: minimizing disparities in school-day physical activity among elementary school students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 15(3), 161–168.

Calvert, H. G., & Turner, L. (2019). School-day classroom-based physical activity and sedentary behavior. Health Behavior and Policy Review, 6(5), 463-471.

Calvert, H. G., Wenner, J. A., & Turner, L. (2019). An exploration of supports for increasing classroom physical activity within elementary schools. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education.

Johnson, T. G., Moorcroft, S. M., Tucker, K. M. B., Calvert, H., & Turner, L. (2017). Communities of practice: a potential professional development model for physical activity leadership. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 88, 3–5.

Johnson, T. J., & Turner, L. (2016). The physical activity movement and the definition of physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (JOPERD), 87(4), 8–10.

Johnson, T. G., Turner, L., & Metzler, M. (2017). Physical activity education: the new name for our field. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (JOPERD), 88(1), 5–7.

Turner, L., Calvert, H. G., & Carlson, J. A. (2019). Supporting Teachers' Implementation of Classroom-Based Physical Activity. Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, 4(17), 165–172.

Turner, L., & Chaloupka, F. J. (2017). Reach and implementation of physical activity breaks and active lessons in elementary school classrooms. Health Education & Behavior, 44(3), 370–375.

Turner, L., Johnson, T. G., Calvert, H. G., & Chaloupka, F. J. (2017). Stretched too thin? The relationship between insufficient resource allocation and physical education instructional time and assessment practices. Teaching and Teacher Education, 68, 210–219.

Wenner, J. A., Tucker, K. M., Calvert, H. G., Johnson, T. G., & Turner, L. (2019). Social capital: a key ingredient in the development of physical activity leadership. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 38(3), 241–251.