Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Distant interactions and their effects on children's physical activity levels during fitness instruction

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  • Evidence exists that links a sedentary lifestyle with the emergence of chronic diseases during adulthood. Reports indicate that many children and adolescents already have risk factors for chronic diseases and the prevalence of obesity among children is at an all time high. There are concerns that children may not be active enough for current or future health benefits. It is imperative that elementary physical education teachers provide effective instruction during health-related fitness instruction since physical activity patterns are believed to be established during childhood. A central dimension of teachers' instruction involves active monitoring of students' performance and conduct. This study sought to determine a functional relationship between distant interactions (a component of active monitoring) by physical education teachers and elementary students' moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) levels during fitness instruction. Distant interactions were defined as teachers' verbal prompts, encouragement, and feedback provided to students located on opposite ends of the gym from where the teacher is located. Five classes (grades 3-5) and two elementary physical education teachers were observed for this study. A reversal design using two treatments, close interaction (C-IA) and distant interaction (D-IA) over multiple phases was implemented. A modified System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT) and "live" momentary time sampling was used to measure students' MVPA during fitness instruction. Teachers' interactions were coded using SOFIT's teacher behavior categories. Fidelity of treatment was assessed. Students' mean MVPA levels and teacher interaction behavior data were graphed and analyzed visually. Interobserver agreement checks were completed for all groups across all conditions. The results indicated the use of distant interaction increased the MVPA levels for the students farthest from the teacher while the close students maintained their levels. Findings build further the empirical base of teachers' active monitoring behavior and point to the importance of teachers distributing their attention to all areas of the gymnasium during fitness instruction. That is, teachers need to be aware of the benefits of using distant interactions as part of their active supervision efforts to increase/sustain students' MVPA during fitness instruction as part of the process aimed at shaping physical activity behavior in youth.
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