Recent studies have established the connection between physical activity in the classroom and academic performance. Now, new research by a West Virginia University faculty member identifies the importance of removing barriers and providing training for teachers to ensure success of movement in the classroom.
The study, published in Teaching and Teacher Education, one of the top research journals in the field of teacher education, may help to improve teacher preparation at the university level. James Hannon, CPASS professor and assistant dean of academic affairs and research, says the study points to the importance of providing teacher support.
“We have learned a great deal in recent years regarding the benefits of physical activity throughout the school day on academic performance and on-task behavior. However, implementation is only successful when teachers feel adequately prepared and supported,” Hannon explained.
Hannon, along with Tan Leng Goh, assistant professor, Springfield College; Collin A. Webster, associate professor, University of South Carolina; and Leslie Podlog associate professor, University of Utah; published the work, entitled “Classroom teachers’ experiences implementing a movement integration program: Barriers, facilitators, and continuance.”
The study focuses on teachers’ perspectives. “We can learn from this in order to improve both our teacher preparation programs at the University level, and our outreach into schools to provide continued professional development and University-School partnerships,” he added.
According to Hannon, the group looked at fifteen teachers' experiences in initiating a classroom movement integration program. The study used a comprehensive school physical activity program framework. The research team collected data through observations, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires.
The group identified barriers to the use of movement integration, including time and space constraints. Facilitators included gaining knowledge during training and developing competencies through experience. Hannon said the group identified program benefits, such as scheduling movement into weekly routines, children's request for the program and collaboration among teachers.
Since the launch of the Let's Move! Active Schools campaign in 2013, teachers and administrators have been called upon to help youth become more physically educated and active in school. Researchers have found that increasing physical activity and aerobic fitness have positively influenced childhood cognitive and brain health.
The school environment is a natural venue for promoting physical activity. Identifying school-based physical activity opportunities is imperative to promote movement for youth to achieve optimal health and well-being outcomes.
Hannon recently received the 2017 Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs Research SIG Innovative Paper Award, having the potential to significantly influence the field of physical education, physical activity and health education in school, as awarded by the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America).