The expectancy-value motivation theory postulates that motivation can be achieved when perceived values in an activity override perceived cost of the activity derived from the effort of achieving. This study was designed to examine types of perceived cost in physical education and the extent to which the cost might affect motivation. Data about attainment, intrinsic, and utility values in physical education were collected using surveys from college students (n = 368) in China. Perceived cost was investigated through open-ended written responses and interviews. Disappointment about the curriculum emerged as a major cost to motivation and lack of student autonomy was identified as a direct demotivating factor. Despite the cost, most of the students (92%) indicated they would, if given a choice, elect to continue physical education for health benefits and broader motivational impact in life, suggesting that strong positive values of physical activity might override the impact of cost. The findings suggest the importance of emphasizing positive values of physical activity in physical education.
Chen is with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of North Carolina–Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, and Liu is with the Department of Physical Education, Southeast University, Nanjing, China.