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Assessing Children’s Liking for Activity Units in an Elementary School Physical Education Curriculum

Thomas L. McKenzie, John E. Alcaraz, and James F. Sallis

Few studies have examined students’ liking for physical education activities and factors that influence students’ evaluations despite the importance these have for continued engagement in physical activity. This study examined 16,032 ratings of “liking” of 648 physical education lessons reported by students in eight coeducational fourth- and fifth-grade classes during an 8-month period. Mean ratings on activity units ranged from 3.15 to 3.62 on a 4-point scale, indicating that the children liked the activities. However, they liked some units more than others (p < .001), and they preferred skill-related over health-related activities (p < .001). Day of week (p < .53), child’s grade (p < .69), and school (p < .56) were not associated with the children’s liking scores. Ratings of activities did not change significantly as students gained more experience with a specific instructional unit. Future research is recommended on how students’ needs and preferences relate to developing positive attitudes toward physical activities.

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Effects of a Physical Education Program on Children’s Manipulative Skills

Thomas L. McKenzie, John E. Alcaraz, James F. Sallis, and F. Nell Faucette

We assessed effects of a physical education professional development program on 3 manipulative skills of 4th- and 5th-graders. Seven schools were randomly assigned to 3 treatment conditions: PES (Physical Education Specialists), TT (Trained Classroom Teachers), and CO (Controls). Students (358 boys, 351 girls) were randomly selected from 56 classes and tested on throwing, catching, and kicking. In the fall baseline, boys scored higher than girls; 5th-graders scored higher than 4th-graders. In the spring, children in PES schools had improvements of 21%; those in TT and CO schools gained 19% and 13%, respectively. Gain scores were significant for catching (p = .005) and throwing (p = .008). Intervention effects did not differ by gender or grade. Adjusting for condition, boys made significantly greater gains than girls. The results indicate that children’s manipulative skills can be improved by quality physical education programs delivered by PE specialists and classroom teachers with substantial training.