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Ninth Graders’ Energy Balance Knowledge and Physical Activity Behavior: An Expectancy-Value Perspective

Senlin Chen and Ang Chen

Expectancy beliefs and task values are two essential motivators in physical education. This study was designed to identify the relation between the expectancy-value constructs (Eccles & Wigfield, 1995) and high school students’ physical activity behavior as associated with their energy balance knowledge. High school students (N = 195) in two healthful-living programs (i.e., combination of physical and health education) responded to measures of expectancy-value motivation, energy balance knowledge, in-class physical activity, and after-school physical activity. The structural equation modeling confirmed positive impact from expectancy beliefs and interest value to in-class physical activity (Path coefficient range from .19 to .26, ps < .01). Cost perception was found exerting a negative impact on after-school physical activity but a positive one on lower level of understanding of energy balance (Path coefficient range from -.33 to -.39, ps < .01). The findings painted a complex but meaningful picture about the motivational impact of expectancy-value constructs on physical activity and energy balance knowledge. School healthful-living programs should create motivational environments that strengthen students’ expectancy beliefs and interest value and alleviate their negative perceptions and experiences.

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Student Learning in Physical Education Through the Lens of a “Curriculum Specialist”

Senlin Chen and Alex Garn

For decades, scholars in physical education pedagogy have done tremendous work to enlighten the research on student learning. Dr. Catherine D. Ennis was one of the leading experts in the past 3 decades (active contributor 1984–2017), who had a monumental impact on learning-related research in physical education. In this article, the authors synthesize Dr. Ennis’s scholarship on student learning in physical education, honoring her contributions to the field. They first define learning as a concept and learning in physical education and present how Ennis as a “curriculum specialist” viewed learning. They then cover Ennis’s insights and findings that originated from her series of impactful curriculum studies related to student engagement and learning and conclude by sharing lessons learned from Ennis’s scholarly wisdom for guiding future research in physical education pedagogy.

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Students’ Knowledge and Behaviors for Active Living: A Cross-Sectional Survey Study

Yang Liu and Senlin Chen

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to capture students’ essential knowledge and behaviors concerning active living. Methods: Students (N = 1,079) from elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States reported their knowledge of physical activity and fitness (PAF knowledge), and physical activity and sedentary behavior using grade-specific PE Metrics tests and Youth Activity Profile, respectively. Descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were used to address the research purposes. Results: The total PAF knowledge scores and scores in subareas varied by gender and school level. A declining trend for physical activity and an increasing trend for sedentary behavior were observed. PAF knowledge positively predicted physical activity in elementary school boys and middle school girls and negatively predicted sedentary behavior in middle school students and high school boys. Certain PAF knowledge subareas (e.g., elementary school PD#3: knowledge about the characteristics of health-enhancing physical activity; middle school PD#1: knowledge of physical activity participation as part of a healthful lifestyle; high school PD#4: monitoring and adjusting physical activity to meet fitness needs) also significantly predicted behaviors. Conclusion: The findings may guide teachers’ curricular and instructional actions to enhance students’ PAF knowledge through physical education.

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Comparing Learners’ Attitude, Knowledge, and Behaviors for Active Living in Physical Education Between Two Middle Schools

Yang Liu, Senlin Chen, and Xiangli Gu

Purpose: The study purpose was to examine performance differences in physical education among learners from two middle schools from two different states. Methods: Performance in physical education was represented by attitude toward physical education, knowledge of physical activity and fitness, and active living behaviors (i.e., physical activity and sedentary behavior). The sixth, seventh, and eighth graders of a midwestern state school (n = 397) and a deep southern state school (n = 350) completed the surveys (N = 747). Results: The authors observed statistically significant school differences in physical activity and fitness knowledge and physical activity behavior (favoring the deep southern state school), and in attitude and sedentary behavior (favoring the midwestern state school). The authors also found stronger associations between attitude and physical activity (but weaker associations between attitude and sedentary behavior) among the deep southern state school students than the midwestern state school students. Conclusion: These observed performance differences and their pedagogical ramifications are discussed in relation to sociodemographic and environmental factors.

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Physical Literacy at the Start Line: Young Children’s Motor Competence, Fitness, Physical Activity, and Fitness Knowledge

Xiangli Gu, Senlin Chen, and Xiaoxia Zhang

Purpose: Developing physically literate individuals is a major goal of school physical education. To date, no research in the United States has examined physical literacy by simultaneously measuring multiple dimensions among young children. The purpose of this study was to examine students’ current status of physical literacy in third grade. Method: Students (N = 342) from four elementary schools in Texas participated in the study. Dimensions of physical literacy including fundamental motor skills, health-related physical fitness, physical activity, and fitness knowledge were measured using the PE Metrics, FitnessGram, accelerometers, and a written test, respectively. Results: The students showed varying levels of competencies across the physical literacy dimensions. Based on the results from multivariate analyses of variance, physical literacy as the single overarching factor was statistically associated with gender, Wilks’s λ = .90, F(5, 316) = 6.82, p < .01, weight status, Wilks’s λ = .81, F(5, 316) = 14.43, p < .01, and ethnicity, Wilks’s λ = .96, F(5, 316) = 2.47, p < .05. Subsequent univariate analyses showed that girls had higher cardiorespiratory endurance but lower physical activity than boys; students with healthy body weight had higher cardiorespiratory endurance and fundamental motor skills than those with unhealthy weight; and Hispanic children displayed higher muscular fitness than non-Hispanic children. Conclusion: The physical literacy discrepancies by gender, weight status, and ethnicity identified in this study are useful for physical educators to promote physical literacy in various student groups.

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Young Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Children’s Fundamental Motor Competence and Physical Activity Behaviors

Xiangli Gu, Senlin Chen, and Xiaoxia Zhang

The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between fundamental motor skills (FMS; including locomotor and object-control skills), moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and sedentary behavior among young Hispanic and non-Hispanic children. Using the prospective research design spanning one academic school year, we recruited 671 children (6.96 ± 1.6 years, 46% girls) from four primary schools in North Texas, 300 of whom were Hispanic and 371 non-Hispanic children, with 90% of the Hispanic and 74% of the non-Hispanic children from low-income families. All participants completed the PE Metrics FMS assessment and wore Actical accelerometers. Hispanic children demonstrated a lower level of MVPA on school days than their non-Hispanic peers. After adjusting for sociodemographic variables, both locomotor and object-control skills significantly predicted school-based MVPA for the non-Hispanic groups, while only object-control skills significantly predicted MVPA for the Hispanic group. For both ethnic groups, locomotor skills significantly predicted school-based sedentary behavior. The findings shed light on future motor competence–based interventions for physical activity promotion and obesity prevention among young Hispanic as well as non-Hispanic children.

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To Move More and Sit Less: Does Physical Activity/Fitness Knowledge Matter in Youth?

Senlin Chen, Yang Liu, and Jodee Schaben


The purpose of this study was to examine physical activity (PA)/fitness knowledge and its association with PA and sedentary behavior in youth.


Eighth grade students from five schools (N = 660) in a midwestern state completed a PE Metrics written test and the Youth Activity Profile to assess PA/fitness knowledge, PA (at school and after school) and sedentary behavior, respectively.


Participants were clustered into high, medium, and low knowledge groups. Students in the high knowledge group reported higher level of PA after school (p < .05, d = .28) but lower level of sedentary behavior than the low knowledge group (p = .001, d = -.45). The low knowledge group also reported higher PA at school (p < .05, d = .25). PA/Fitness knowledge significantly predicted sedentary behavior, particularly in the low knowledge group (β = -.32, t = -2.46, p < .05, R 2 = .105), after controlling for gender and race/ethnicity.


Physical education focused on conveying PA/fitness knowledge is warranted to educate youth to move more and sit less.

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Adolescents’ Interest and Performances in Aerobic Fitness Testing

Xihe Zhu, Senlin Chen, and James Parrott

This study examined adolescents’ interest in aerobic fitness testing and its relation to the test performances. Adolescents (N = 356) from three middle schools participated in the study. The participants took two aerobic fitness tests: the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) and One-Mile Run (1MR) with a two-day interval, and completed two interest scales immediately after each test. Test performances, interest, and body mass index data were collected. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, multivariate analysis of variance/covariance, and hierarchical regression analyses. Student situational and personal interests were low-to-moderate overall in both aerobic fitness tests. Boys reported significantly higher situational interest than girls, but there was no gender difference in personal interest. Personal interest was a significant predictor for PACER (b=.27) and 1MR (b=-.37). The predictability of situational interest to testing performances varied between PACER and 1MR. PACER and 1MR might have rendered distinct motivational stimuli that led to the varied predicting power of situational interest.

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Fostering Motivation in Physical Education to Promote Learning and Achievement

Senlin Chen and Melinda Solmon

Research exploring motivation has yielded a robust body of evidence to guide efforts to improve teaching and learning in physical education (PE). We begin by defining motivation and achievement within the context of PE. Given the extensive and diverse motivational perspectives, we purposely selected three widely studied theories in PE, achievement goal theory, self-determination theory, and interest theory, as the focus of our review. These theories have guided many investigations and the development of pedagogical practice over the past 3 decades. We elaborate on these theories and then synthesize recently published intervention studies to provide an interpretive analysis of the literature. This analysis has enabled us to identify gaps that need to be addressed in future research and efforts to improve practice. We conclude with the proposition calling for innovative, theory-driven, evidence-based research and practice to foster adaptive student motivation for optimal educational, behavioral, and health outcomes in K–12 PE.

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A Comparison of Children’s Physical Activity Levels in Physical Education, Recess, and Exergaming

Zan Gao, Senlin Chen, and David F. Stodden


To compare young children’s different intensity physical activity (PA) levels in physical education, recess and exergaming programs.


Participants were 140 first and second grade children (73 girls; Meanage= 7.88 years). Beyond the daily 20-minute recess, participants attended 75-minute weekly physical education classes and another 75-minute weekly exergaming classes. Children’s PA levels were assessed by ActiGraph GTX3 accelerometers for 3 sessions in the 3 programs. The outcome variables were percentages of time spent in sedentary, light PA and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA).


There were significant main effects for program and grade, and an interaction effect for program by grade. Specifically, children’s MVPA in exergaming and recess was higher than in physical education. The 2nd-grade children demonstrated lower sedentary behavior and MVPA than the first-grade children during recess; less light PA in both recess and exergaming than first-grade children; and less sedentary behavior but higher MVPA in exergaming than first-grade children.


Young children generated higher PA levels in recess and exergaming as compared with physical education. Hence, other school-based PA programs may serve as essential components of a comprehensive school PA program. Implications are provided for educators and health professionals.