Increasing Classroom Teachers' Implementation and Sustained Use of Classroom-Based Physical Activity Breaks as a Strategy to Improve Academic Outcomes
Purpose: This project team is developing and testing 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 physical activity breaks (PA) are hypothesized to improve attention and increase time on task, which in turn should improve student learning and performance. Traditional methods of providing opportunities for PA within schools such as physical education classes can be challenging to sustain in schools, and are felt to be insufficient, leading to the recommendation that schools provide alternative methods to promote PA. Classroom-based PA is promising, but hard to sustain over time. As a result, promising programs designed to promote PA within the classroom are often not implemented. Researchers in this study will develop strategies targeting teachers' motivation to adopt such programming as one means of promoting the use of classroom PA to support student learning and achievement.
Project Activities: The research team will first identify and test strategies to promote teacher implementation included in a freely available, research-based PA program, the Energizers curriculum. The team will then test these strategies individually to determine acceptability, feasibility and preliminary effectiveness for modifying teacher attitudes and program implementation. They will also test strategies to promote school-wide support for program implementation. Researchers will carry out a final pilot test to determine if the enhanced training package increases teachers' implementation of PA breaks above and beyond the curriculum alone, and whether it improves students' classroom behavior and academic outcomes.
Products: Researchers will generate a fully developed program for use in schools to promote teacher implementation of programs that increase students' physical activity. The research team will also produce all materials to support school-based implementation (e.g., manuals, fidelity of implementation measures) and peer-reviewed publications.
Setting: This study will take place in rural fringe, suburban, and small to mid-size city settings in Idaho.
Sample: Participants include approximately 200 teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms situated in approximately eight public elementary schools. Students in these classrooms will also participate.
Intervention: The intervention is a training and support package to increase teachers' implementation of physical activity (PA) breaks. The package is intended to be flexible and useful for increasing the implementation of any program designed to foster PA in elementary school classrooms. In this study, the research team will develop the package so as to promote the use of Energizers, a readily available, free, evidence-based curriculum. The training and support package consists of two primary components: strategies that target teachers' knowledge and attitudes by providing tailored feedback in the form of tip sheets; and professional learning communities (PLCs) to promote collaboration, connectedness, and support for program implementation in the school that involves peer mentoring with physical education teachers serving as peer coaches.
Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, researchers will examine how teacher characteristics are associated with PA break implementation. In Year 2, the research team will test specific strategies identified in Year 1. In Year 3, the team will complete a pilot study using a quasi-experimental design (two schools receiving the training package and the Energizers curriculum; one school receiving Energizers only; one school serving as a measurement only control) to determine if the enhanced training model increases implementation of PA more than the curriculum alone. In the final year of the study, the team will complete data analysis and dissemination activities.
Control Condition: One school in the comparison group implements the PA curriculum only. The other school conducts business as usual.
Key Measures: The research team will measure teacher implementation (dosage) using tracking logs, and fidelity using pedometers to track student activity. Researchers will assess student education outcomes using observations of time on task in the classroom and standardized achievement test scores (e.g., Smarter Balanced). They will also use school records of student attendance and office discipline referrals.
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use an inductive approach to analyze the data from the interviews and process surveys. With descriptive statistics, the team will assess pre-post changes. The research team will use mixed-effects models to assess the impact of the enhanced training model on weekly implementation dosage, fidelity (PA), and student education outcomes. Finally, the team will use mediation analyses to determine if changes in teacher attitude (e.g., self-efficacy) mediate the impact of the intervention on implementation rates.