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  • Author: James F. Sallis x
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Thomas L. McKenzie, James F. Sallis, Paul Rosengard and Kymm Ballard

SPARK [Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids], in its current form, is a brand that represents a collection of exemplary, research-based, physical education and physical activity programs that emphasize a highly active curriculum, on-site staff development, and follow-up support. Given its complexity (e.g., multiple school levels, inclusion of both physical education and self-management curricula), SPARK features both diverse instructional and diverse curricular models. SPARK programs were initially funded by the NIH as two separate elementary and middle school intervention studies, and the curriculum and instructional models used in them embody the HOPE (Health Optimizing Physical Education) model. This paper reviews background information and studies from both the initial grants (1989–2000) and the dissemination (1994-present) phases of SPARK, identifies program evolution, and describes dissemination efforts and outcomes. Procedures used in SPARK may serve as models for others interested in researching and disseminating evidence-based physical education and physical activity programs.

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Thomas L. McKenzie, James F. Sallis and Philip R. Nader

This paper describes SOFIT (System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time), an observation instrument designed to assess variables associated with students’ activity levels and opportunities to become physically fit in physical education. SOFIT involves the direct observation of classes while simultaneously recording student physical activity levels, curriculum context variables, and teacher behavior. The paper reports the reliability, validity, and feasibility of using the instrument, as well as data from using SOFIT to assess 88 third- and fourth-grade classes.

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Nell Faucette, Thomas L. McKenzie and James F. Sallis

A primary purpose of this study was to describe differences between self-contained and team teaching approaches when two groups of fourth- and fifth-grade classroom teachers attempted to implement a physical education curriculum during a 4-month in-service program. One school featured team teaching in pairs during physical education classes; the other used a self-contained teaching approach. The program required a minimum of three 30-min physical education classes weekly. All teachers participated in an extensive in-service training program that included weekly on-site assistance. Data collection included teachers’ lesson-completion forms, specialist’s reports, SOFIT PE class observations, teacher-completed Stages of Concern questionnaires, and teachers’ formal interviews. Results indicated that classroom teachers who used the self-contained model more consistently implemented the curriculum and more frequently expressed positive responses. Participants who used the team model for the physical education curriculum frequently strayed from the assigned pedagogical approach, ignored major portions of the program, and experienced extreme management concerns.

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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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Nell Faucette, Peg Nugent, James F. Sallis and Thomas L. McKenzie

Classroom teachers’ responses to a 2-year professional development program are presented. Sixteen 4th- and 5th-grade teachers involved in Project SPARK completed structured interviews, questionnaires, and written evaluations of program sessions. Although in Year 1 more than half of the teachers expressed concerns about schedules and equipment management, results indicated that the program helped increase their self-confidence when teaching physical education. Participants believed that students benefitted from their enhanced knowledge and instructional behaviors. Program components most appreciated included: the input received and responsiveness of the design team; opportunities to collaborate, discuss concerns, and problem-solve with each other and the facilitators; and having on-site and large-group-session modeling. Results indicated that the teachers were less enthusiastic about a self-management curriculum due to its behavioral emphasis, yet supported the assertion that an ongoing, supportive professional development program can substantially improve classroom teachers’ physical education programs.

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Julie A. Sarkin, Thomas L. McKenzie and James F. Sallis

Boys are typically more physically active than girls, but schools have the potential to promote health-related physical activity for all children. This study investigated gender differences in children’s physical activity levels during physical education (PE) classes and unstructured recess periods. The activity levels of 91 fifth-grade children were assessed by accelerometer (Caltrac) on 3 days. Results indicated that children’s activity levels were low to moderately stable from day to day in both environments. Boys and girls had similar activity levels during PE, t(89) = 1.49, p = .140, but boys were significantly more active than girls during recess, t(89) = 3.27, p = .002. Girls were significantly more active during PE than they were at recess, t(51) = 2.08, p = .043. The results suggest that structured PE classes may provide similar amounts of physical activity for both genders.

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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.

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Thomas L. McKenzie, Kathryn J. LaMaster, James F. Sallis and Simon J. Marshall

The relationship of classroom teachers’ leisure time physical activity and their conduct of physical education classes was investigated. Eighteen 4th- and 5th-grade teachers reported on their leisure physical activity and had their physical education classes observed systematically during 4 consecutive semesters. Correlational analyses confirmed that more active teachers taught physical education differently from those that were less active. Teachers who were more active provided students with increased physical fitness activities, and the teachers themselves spent more time promoting physical fitness during lessons. The study provides some support for the hypothesis that physically active teachers provide higher quality physical education.