Influences on motivation climate

Physical activity and situational motivation in physical education: influence of the motivational
climate and perceived ability.
Author(s):Loraine E. Parish and Darren C. Treasure.
Source:Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 74.2 (June 2003): p173(10). (7588 words)
Document Type:Magazine/Journal
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Full Text :COPYRIGHT 2003 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation
and Dance (AAHPERD)
The influence of perceptions of the motivational climate and perceived ability on situational
motivation and the physical activity behavior of 213 male and 229 female adolescent physical
education students (M age = 12.56 years; SD = 0.96) was examined over a 3-day period. A
significant age by gender interaction emerged, with physical activity declining from the sixth to
eighth grade. The decline was mare pronounced among female than male students. Perceptions
of a mastery climate were strongly related to more self-determined farms of situational
motivation. In contrast, perceptions of a performance climate were strongly related to less selfdetermined forms of situational motivation. Results of a hierarchical regression analysis revealed
gender, perceived ability, and perceptions of a mastery climate to explain a significant amount of
variance in physical activity. These findings suggest that promoting a mastery oriented
motivational climate in physical education will foster self determined situational motiva tion and
physical activity.
Key words: achievement goals, self-determination
The Surgeon General's report on physical activity and health (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services [USDHHS], 1996) emphasized the importance of regular physical activity on
health benefits across the life span, including reducing the risk of heart disease and ameliorating
and preventing numerous other disease states such as diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. In
addition, physical activity is related to positive mental health and enhanced quality of life (see
Biddle, Fox, & Boutcher, 2000). Although adolescents are more active than adults, participation
in physical activity declines with age throughout adolescence, especially for girls (Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1998; Pate, Long, & Heath, 1994; Rowland, 1990;
Stone, McKenzie, Welk, & Booth, 1998). Research has also shown that physical activity or
inactivity tracks during early childhood, with less active children tending to remain more so than
most of their peers (Pate, Baranowski, Dowda, & Trost, 1996). Recognizing the importa nce of
physical activity, Healthy People 2010 recently reported that only 65% of adolescents in grades
9-12 engage in the recommended levels of physical activity, namely 20 min of vigorous physical
activity 3 days a week. A stated goal of Healthy People 2010, therefore, is to increase the
percentage of adolescents who engage in recommended levels of vigorous physical activity to
85% (USDHHS, 2000). A recent position statement from the National Association for Sport and
Physical Education (NASPE; Corbin & Pangrazi, 1998) is consistent with the theme of Healthy
People 2010 and recommends that adolescents engage in 30 mm of moderate activity on most
days. Whether targeting vigorous or moderate activity, the growing concerns over the inactivity
of America's youth has led some researchers to identify physical education as an important
infrastructure for promoting healthy physical activity patterns during childhood and adolescence
(Stone et al., 1998).
School-based physical education should provide an environment that encourages physical
activity strategies and behaviors in which youngsters can engage during childhood and
adolescence and continue into adulthood (USDHHS, 1997; Sallis & McKenzie, 1991; Sallis et
al., 1992). The mere presence of physical education in the curriculum, however, does not
guarantee activity. Simons-Morton, Taylor, Snider, Wei Huang, and Fulton (1994) reported that,
in a sample of elementary school physical education classes, students spent only 8.6% of class
time participating in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. At the middle school level, physical
education classes consisted of 16.4% moderate-to-vigorous physical activity participation. These
statistics are lower than the estimated national average of 27% (USDHHS, 1997), but all data are
significantly below the recommended minimum of 50% of class time spent being physically
active (USDHHS, 1997). The goals of physical education are obviously far broader than simply
increasi ng activity during class time; however, we believe physical education should be a
context in which students are active and that the curriculum should emphasize and encourage this
behavior in an appropriate fashion. Although there may be many explanations for the inactivity
of children and adolescents during physical education class, one determinant may be the
students' motivation, specifically the meaning of achievement emphasized in the context.
One theoretical approach--achievement goal theory--has shown promise in explaining children's
motivation in physical education. This approach contends that the goal of action in achievement
settings is to demonstrate ability. Nicholls (1984, 1989) proposed the existence of two goal states
of involvement, namely task and ego. In a task state of involvement, ability is demonstrated
when task learning and mastery are achieved and high effort is exerted. An individual's
assessment of ability, therefore, is self-referenced, and success is perceived when mastery is
demonstrated. In an ego state of involvement, however, ability is demonstrated when one
exceeds the performance of others. An individual, therefore, focuses on social comparison, and
ability is demonstrated when his or her performance is perceived to exceed that of others,
particularly when less effort is exerted (Nicholls, 1984, 1989).
Whether an individual is task or ego involved in an achievement setting depends on both
dispositional and situational factors. Specifically, an individual's dispositional goal orientation is
thought to reflect the predisposing tendency to be task or ego involved, while the salience of
performance and mastery-oriented cues in the achievement context are situational criteria that
may alter the probability of adopting a particular state of involvement (Dweck & Leggett, 1988;
Nicholls, 1989). The significance of situational determinants in determining motivation in
physical education during adolescence has recently been demonstrated (Gury, et al. 1996;
Treasure & Roberts, 2001). In both studies, the students' perceptions of the motivational climate,
namely the salience of task and ego involving cues in the achievement context (Ames, 1992),
were stronger predictors of cognitive and affective responses after controlling for dispositional
goal orientations. In a study by Treasure and Roberts (2001), perceptions of a mastery climate
were related to preference for challenging tasks, the belief that success resulted from effort and
motivation, and satisfaction in the activity. In contrast, perceptions of a performance climate
were related to the belief that deception was a cause of success. Similarly, Cury and colleagues
(1996) found perceptions of a mastery climate to be a strong predictor of intrinsic interest in
physical education. These studies are particularly significant, as they suggest that the way the
teacher structures the meaning of achievement in the physical education context may affect how
students think, feel, and act.
Although the pattern of findings reported above is consistent with achievement goal theory, a
fundamental tenet of the theory is that perceived ability interacts with task and ego goals to
determine cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Nicholls,
1989). Specifically, perceived ability is posited to be irrelevant when an individual is task
involved (Nicholls, 1989). When an individual is ego involved, however, the relationship is more
complex. Ego-involved individuals who believe they have high ability and expect to demonstrate
competence by outperforming others are expected to engage in a task where success
demonstrates high ability. Ego-involved individuals who doubt their ability, however, are likely
to avoid engaging in a task in which they expect to demonstrate low ability. In terms of physical
activity behavior in the achievement context of physical education, it would be expected that
individuals who perceive a performance-oriented motivational climate would only be acti ve if
they believe a successful outcome is likely. In this case, only those students who believe they
have high normative perceived ability would be expected to be active.
Situational Motivation
One important correlate of achievement goals that has received attention in the physical
education literature (e.g., Cury et al., 1996; Dorobantu & Biddle, 1997; Ferrer-Caja & Weiss,
2000; Goudas, Biddle, & Fox, 1994; Vlachopoulos & Biddle, 1996) is the intrinsic motivation
construct of Deci and Ryan's self-determination theory (1985, 1991). In these studies, intrinsic
motivation was found to be positively associated with task orientation and perceptions of a
mastery climate, as achievement striving is experienced as an end in itself. In contrast, ego
orientation and perceptions of a performance climate were usually found to be either unrelated or
inversely related to intrinsic motivation. While this research has addressed the intrinsic
motivation construct of self-determination theory, Deci and Ryan (1985,1991) proposed three
main types of motivation, namely intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivation that lie on a continuum in
terms of self-regulation autonomy. Intrinsic motivation involves the greatest degree of
autonomous self-regulation; extrinsic motivation (integrated regulation, identified regulation,
introjected regulation, external regulation) involves less autonomy; while amotivation reflects
the least autonomous form of selfregulation.
Consistent with the self-determination continuum, the pattern of relationships among these
motivation types is proposed to conform to a simplex-ordered correlation structure. Specifically,
those motivation types adjacent along the continuum (i.e., intrinsic motivation, identified
regulation) are expected to be more positively correlated than those more distal (i.e., amotivation
and intrinsic motivation). A fundamental tenet of this theoretical perspective is that the more
self-determined the motivation type (i.e., intrinsic motivation and identified regulation) the more
positive the cognitive, affective, and behavioral consequences. Consequences are less positive
when the motivational regulations are low in autonomy (i.e., external regulation and
amotivation). Recent empirical research has revealed that self-determined motivation types are
predictive of positive outcomes in a number of contexts, including children's physical activity
(Chatzisarantis, Biddle, & Meek, 1997), education (Miserandino, 1996; Valler and & Bisonnette,
1992), and health care (Williams, Rodin, Ryan, Grolnick, & Deci, 1998).
The limited research that has examined multidimensional motivation in the context of physical
education has confirmed the positive relationship between dispositional task goal orientation and
the more self-determined types of situational motivation. This research has also revealed a
positive relationship between dispositional ego goal orientation and motivation regulations low
in self-determination (e.g., Brunel, 1999; Ntoumanis, 2001; Standage & Treasure, 2002). To gain
a more complete understanding of human behavior, therefore, a growing number of researchers
contend that it is important to examine the various constructs of extrinsic motivation and
amotivation in addition to intrinsic motivation (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1991; Frederick & Ryan,
1995; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Vallerand, 1997).
In addition to addressing the different types of motivation, Vallerand (1997, 2001) emphasized
the need to account for the level of motivation when examining the motivation process. Within a
self-determined perspective, he proposed a hierarchical model that suggests motivation and its
determinants, mediators, and consequences operate at three levels: global, contextual, and
situational. In this framework, dispositional goal orientations and perceptions of the general
motivational climate would be conceptualized as contextual factors. Perceptions of the
motivational climate may be a situational factor, however, if the stem of the questionnaire directs
the student to evaluate the salience of mastery and performance cues in the "here and now"
context. Based on Vallerand's hierarchical model, situational motivation should, therefore, be
significantly related to the participant's perceptions of the motivational climate, if the students
are asked to provide their appraisal of the "here and now" motivational climate in physical
education as they are conceptualized as operating at the same level of motivational generality.
Although achievement goal theory places a great emphasis on the cognitive and affective
determinants and consequences of behavior, the relationship between task and ego goals and
behavior should be a central focus of research. To our knowledge, Solmon (1996) conducted the
only research study in physical education that investigated the relationship between achievement
goals and behavior. She found that students in a mastery-oriented treatment condition were more
likely to persist on a difficult task (juggling) than those in a performance-oriented condition. The
results suggest that students in a performance-oriented climate may use effort reduction (i.e., a
lower number of trials at a difficult level) to avoid the embarrassment of demonstrating low
competence. Previous research from an achievement goal perspective, therefore, shows that the
meaning of achievement is central to the way in which students think, act, and feel in the context
of physical education. A significant gap in the literature, however, conc erns the relationship
between the way students perceive the meaning of achievement in physical education and their
activity patterns.
Given the growing sedentary lifestyles of children and adolescents and the potential for the
context of physical education to be an important infrastructure for promoting healthy physical
activity, the primary purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between
perceptions of the motivational climate and physical activity behavior in physical education
classes. Based on research that has consistently shown boys to be more active than girls during
adolescence (e.g., CDC, 1998; Stone et al., 1998) and the positive effect of high normative
ability on activity levels (Reynolds et al., 1990; Zakarian, Hovell, Hofsetter, Sallis, & Keating,
1994), gender and perceived ability were expected to explain a significant amount of variance in
the students' physical activity. Students' perceptions of a mastery climate that emphasizes selfreferenced criteria for success, encourages effortful striving, and minimizes the negative
consequences of making errors were also hypothesized to be positively related to physical
activity. In contrast, only when individuals reported high perceived normative ability would
perceptions of a performance-oriented climate, one that emphasizes social comparison and
outperforming others, be positively related to physical activity behavior.
The situational level of motivation generality was of particular interest to the present study. As
previously stated, within Vallerand's hierarchical model, situational motivation refers to the
motivation an individual experiences while engaged in a particular activity-the "here and now" of
motivation (Vallerand, 1997). Therefore, consistent with previous research examining the
relationship between dispositional goal orientations and situational multidimensional motivation
(Standage & Treasure, 2002), it was expected that perceptions of a mastery-oriented climate, as
assessed in the present study, would be positively related to more self-determined types of
situational motivation, specifically intrinsic motivation and identified regulation. In contrast,
perceptions of a performance-oriented climate would be related to the less self-determined forms
of situational motivation, namely external regulation and amotivation.
The participants were 452 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade physical education students
attending the same middle school in an urban community in the southwestern region of the
United States. Participants were drawn from 24 (12 boys, 12 girls) single gender physical
education classes: four classes per gender from the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, respectively.
In total, there were 5 physical educators at the middle school in the present study teaching 6
physical education periods for a total of 30 physical education classes, 10 per grade. level, on
any given day. The classes selected to participate in the present study were taught by two male
and two female teachers and were chosen because the students were scheduled to be outside on
the playing field. This was considered important, as the study focased on the students' free choice
activity, and we wanted to encourage as much variability in activity levels as possible. We
believed this would be better achieved outside the gym setting.
Due to incomplete data, 10 participants were eliminated from the final data analyses. The final
sample (N = 442), therefore, consisted of 213 male (Mage = 12.7 years; SD = 0.98; range 11-14
years) and 229 female students (Mage = 12.5 years; SD = 0.92; range 11-l4 years). A breakdown
of the participants .by race revealed 63% White, 8% Hispanic, 5% Asian, 4% African American,
4% Mexican, 2% Native American, and 14% other. Twenty-one participants did not report their
race. Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the school board, school principal,
school physical education faculty, and the institutional review board at the investigators'
university. The entire sample volunteered, and parental consent was obtained for each student.
Pedometers. The Yamax Lifestepper (MLS-2000) pedometer (Yamax, Plainfield, IL) was used to
assess physical activity. The Yamax pedometer is a simple device that attaches to the waistband
and measures vertical movement as counts (steps). It has been found to be reliable and valid for
measuring activity in adults and children, with total steps being highly related to oxygen uptake,
heart rate, and behavioral observations of activity (e.g., Bassett et al., 1996; Differding, Welk,
Hart, Abate, & Symington, 1998; Kilanowski, Consalvi, & Epstein, 1999; Rowlands, Eston, &
Ingledow, 1997). In the present study, a total step count at the conclusion of each physical
education period was recorded for statistical analysis.
Perceived Motivational Climate. The Learning and Performance Orientations in Physical
Education Classes Questionnaire (LAPOPECQ; Papaioannou, 1994) was used to assess
participants' perceptions of the mastery and performance-oriented motivational climate. The
LAPOPECQ is a physical education specific measure of students' perceptions of the motivational
climate. The measure conceptualizes the climate as two higher order factors, namely mastery and
performance, consisting of two and three second-order factors, respectively. To gain a sense of
the perceived motivational climate during the data collection segment of the present study the
students responded to the stem, "In physical education class over the past three days..." on a 5point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree) for each question. Previous
research has shown the LAPOPECQ to possess satisfactory factorial and construct validity and
reliability in the physical education domain (e.g., Ferrer-Caja & Weiss, 2000; Papaioannou,
1994). For the purposes of the present study, only the mastery and performance higher order
factors assessed by the LAPOPECQ were used.
Perceived Ability. The perceived sport competence subscale of the Children and Youth Physical
Self-Perception Profile (CY-PSPP; Whitehead, 1995) was used to assess perceived physical
ability. Students were initially presented with two different descriptions of people, for example,
"some kids do very well at all kinds of sports, but other kids don't feel that they are very good
when it comes to sports," and "some kids wish they could be a lot better at sports, but other kids
feel they are good enough at sports." Participants were asked to choose which description most
described them and then determine if the description was "really true" or "sort of true." Scores on
each of the six items comprising the scale, therefore, range from 1 to 4. The CY-PSPP has
demonstrated acceptable validity and reliability with middle school-aged children (Eklund,
Whitehead, & Welk, 1997; Welk, Corbin, Dowell, & Harris, 1997).
Situational Intrinsic Motivation. The Situational Intrinsic Motivation Scale (SIMS: Guay,
Vallerand, & Blanchard, 2000) assesses situational motivation in field and laboratory settings. In
an effort to be short and versatile, the SIMS measures the intrinsic and amotivation constructs
unidimensionally and only assesses the identified and external regulation dimensions of extrinsic
motivation. Indeed, Guay and colleagues (2000) argued that including integrated and introjected
regulation items would yield a too lengthy assessment tool that might fail to capture ongoing
self-processes. The measure, therefore, consists of four, four-item subscales that measure
intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation, and amotivation. Responding to
the stem, "Why are you currently engaged in physical education," participants rate their personal
reasons for participating in physical education class. Items from the SIMS include: "because I
think that this activity is interesting," "because I am doing it for m y own good," "because I am
supposed to do it," and "there may be a good reason to do this activity, but personally I don't see
any." A 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree) was used to rate the
importance of each of the 16 items. Initial research in physical education has found the SIMS to
possess good validity and reliability (Standage & Treasure, 2002).
Body Mass Index. Using height and weight measures that were taken objectively, body mass
index (BMI) was calculated. The formula kg/[m.sup.2] was used to calculate BMI. BMI has been
used with adolescents in recent studies (e.g., Berkey, et al., 2000; Bini, et al., 2000).
Trained undergraduate research assistants performed the data collection. Research assistants
were told the procedure to be followed each day and were familiar with the measures used in the
study. Each research assistant was assigned 12 students from whom she or he collected all
information and answered any questions pertaining to the study. Consistent with a procedure
outlined by Sidman, Vincent, Corbin, Pangrazi, and Vincent (2001) a manual pedometer shake
test was administered prior to data collection to test the calibration of the pedometers and
validate that they worked appropriately. This test consisted of placing the pedometers vertically
in a box supplied by the manufacturer and then giving them 100 shakes to record the number of
"steps" taken, with the error between actual steps taken (i.e., number of shakes) and that recorded
by the pedometer examined. The deviation from 100 steps for all pedometers was less than 3%.
The results of the procedure demonstrate that the pedometers used in the present stu dy provided
accurate step-count data
Data were collected over a 7-day period from 12 male and 12 female single gender physical
education classes. A physical education specialist of the same gender as the students taught each
class. The class size ranged from 10-27 (M = 19) and 10-25 (M = 18) for the female and male
classes, respectively. Each class period lasted for 45 min during the reactivity phase of the
investigation (Days 1-4). For the 3 days of activity collection (Days 5-7), however, the classes
were involved in standardized academic testing, which reduced the class periods to 30 min. On
the first day of the study, students provided demographic information and completed the
perceived competence subscale of the CY-PSPP. After completing the prestudy questionnaires,
all students participated in an orientation during which they were introduced to pedometers.
Students were assigned a numbered pedometer, instructed on proper positioning of the
pedometer on the waistband, and then given the opportunity to handle the pedometer while being
instru cted about the pedometer. Students were told that the pedometer counted their steps taken
during the physical education period. During the first
4 days following the orientation, students wore a pedometer during physical education class to
control for possible reactivity effects and ensure that the pedometers were unobtrusive measures
of physical activity behavior. Step counts used in the data analyses were collected for the final 3
days of the study in accordance with the recommendations of Vincent and Pangrazi (in press)
who found that 3-4 days of data collection were sufficient to determine habitual activity levels.
On each of the 3 days of pedometer data collection, research assistants set out the pedometers
with the number visible. On arrival, students took approximately 5 min to dress in their uniforms,
pick up their assigned pedometer, attach the pedometer to their waistband, and line up for roll
call. Each day following roll call, the physical education teachers instructed students to reset the
pedometer to zero. After resetting their pedometers, students participated in the daily physical
education activity.
For the purposes of the present study, all students participated in the same activity, namely,
ultimate football. Instructions and rules for ultimate football (i.e., played with the same rules as
ultimate Frisbee, with the exception of using a football) were given on the first day of the data
collection part of the study. Students were divided into squads and remained in these squads for
the duration of the study. Every 10 min, the squads would rotate to a new field to allow each to
play multiple squads. At the start of each subsequent physical education period, the teacher
reminded the students of the game rules and then allowed the games to commence. No
formalized instruction took place during the activity component of the class periods, enabling the
free choice activity of the children to be determined. This was an important element of the study
design, as the purpose was to collect data about activity rather than the impact of instructional
strategies. Across the 3 days of pedometer data collection, parti cipants had the opportunity to
engage in activity for approximately 65 mm, At the conclusion of each day, students returned
their pedometer to their research assistant and completed the SIMS. After the final day of
pedometer data collection, students completed the LAPOPECQ. Height and weight
measurements were gathered following the completion of all other data collection.
Data Analysis
The student was the unit of analysis in the present study. Consistent with the procedure
recommended by Silverman and Solmon (1998), this decision was deemed appropriate, because
(a) the dependent variables were measured at the student level, (b) there was no treatment
delivered to the students, and (c) the dependent variables were independent among participants.
After establishing the appropriate unit of analysis, descriptive statistics and reliabilities for all
measures were initially examined. Prior to examining the study hypotheses, a 2 (gender) x 3
(grade) one-way univariate analysis of variance was conducted to determine if boys and girls
differed in activity levels as a function of grade.
The students' responses to the four subscales of the SIMS from the 3 days of data collection were
collapsed to create a composite score for the intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external
regulation, and amotivation subscales of the SIMS, respectively. A series of correlations were
then calculated to examine the relationships between the students' perceptions of the mastery and
performance motivational climate and situational motivation.
Finally, a hierarchical multiple-regression analysis was conducted to determine what
combination of individual difference and situational variables explained the variance in physical
activity. Gender was entered first into the regression equation followed by perceived ability, as
both variables have been shown to be influential in explaining behavior in physical activity
contexts. Perceptions of a mastery climate were added at the next step, with the interaction of
perceptions of a performance climate and perceived ability entered at the final step of the
regression analyses.
Descriptive Statistics and Reliabilities
Twelve participants (6 boys and 6 girls) were absent from physical education class when the
height and weight measurements were collected. BMI analyses were conducted for the remaining
430 students. All other analyses were conducted on the complete sample. Participants who were
absent from school or failed to complete 2 days of pedometer data collection were excluded.
Responses from 10 participants were excluded due to incomplete data Cronbach alpha
coefficients and descriptive statistics for all measures for male and female participants are
presented in Table 1. Cronbach alpha coefficients (Cronbach, 1951) for all measures were
calculated, and all internal consistencies were deemed acceptable based on Nunnally's (1978)
criterion of [alpha] = .70 for the psychological domain.
According to the CDC (2000) unhealthy ranges for BMI are above the 85th (20.2-22.8
kg/[m.sup.2]) and below the 5th (14.5-16 kg/[m.sup.2]) percentiles. Based on national norms,
then, the current sample is within the recommended BMI range for children and adolescents. In
regard to activity levels, the female and male participants in the present study took an average of
5,048 and 5,884 steps, respectively, during 65 min of available activity time.
Age and Gender Effects
A significant Gender x Grade interaction effect for total steps emerged, F(2, 442) = 3.19, p < .05.
As shown in Figure 1, physical activity declined for both male and female students from sixth to
eighth grade. Consistent with previous research, however, the decline was more dramatic for the
female students, particularly between sixth and seventh grade than for the male students, thus
accounting for the significant interaction effect.
Situational Motivation.
Correlation Analysis. As shown in Table 2, a conceptually coherent pattern of relationships
emerged between students' perceptions of the motivational climate and situational motivation.
Consistent with the self-determination continuum and the hypothesized simplex pattern of
relationships, the strength of relationship between perceptions of a mastery climate and
motivation types strengthened depending on the level of self-determination. Specifically, the
strength of relationship became stronger as the motivation type moved toward intrinsic
motivation on the self-determination continuum. The reverse pattern emerged for perceptions of
a performance climate. Specifically, the strength of relationship became stronger as the
motivation type moved toward amotivation on the self-determination continuum.
Hierarchical Multiple Regression. The final model for the regression equation is displayed in
Table 3. As expected, gender predicted a significant amount of the variance in the student's
physical activity. The student's perceived ability also emerged as a significant predictor of
activity. Perceptions of a mastery-oriented climate remained a significant predictor of activity
after gender and ability were entered into the regression equation. The interaction between
performance climate and perceived ability was not a significant predictor of physical activity.
Examination of the unstandardized beta coefficients revealed that perceptions of a mastery
climate and perceived ability were positively related to physical activity, while the negative
relationship between gender and activity indicated that male students were more active than
female students.
Although there are limitations to every physical activity measure, the congruence between the
findings of the present study and previous research suggests that the pedometers provided a valid
assessment of students' physical activity level in physical education. Specifically, the findings
were consistent with previous research (i.e., CDC, 1998; Pate et al., 1994; Rowland, 1990; Stone
et al., 1998), in that physical activity declined in a sample of healthy sixth and eighth grade male
and female students during physical education class. This decline was more pronounced in the
girls, supporting the findings of Sallis and colleagues (1992), who showed that boys are more
active than girls during childhood and adolescence. Although the activity data are consistent with
the extant literature, it is important to note that the choice of ultimate football as the content of
the physical education classes may have affected activity levels. Specifically, if ultimate football
had been perceived as a gender-typed activity ( Coakley, 2001) it may have led girls to be less
engaged in the activity than the boys, even when they participated in a single-gender physical
education class. More research examining activity as a function of task type and whether the
class is taught in a single-gender or coeducational setting is clearly needed to determine how at
risk female students may be for decreased activity levels as a function of these two variables.
In addition to providing a valid assessment of the students' activity levels in the present study,
the pedometers also represent an effective way to assess relative activity levels in a class. This is
important, as it affords the opportunity to examine various individual difference variables that
may explain variability in behavior. Although the results of the present study showed high
normative ability to be a significant predictor of activity in physical education, the pattern of
relationships between perceptions of the motivational climate and activity also suggests that the
meaning of achievement may be an important determinant of this behavior in physical education.
Specifically, the present study revealed perceptions of a mastery-oriented motivational climate to
be positively related to physical activity behavior even after controlling for the effects of
perceived ability. We would argue that this is a significant finding, as not all children can be
above average in terms of normative perceived ability. The findings of the present study,
therefore, are most encouraging, in that they provide insight into how physical educators may
positively affect all students' motivation and activity levels.
Consistent with recent research (e.g., Cury et al., 1996; Goudas & Biddle, 1994; Treasure, 1997;
Treasure & Robens, 2001) and a narrative review with estimated effect sizes (Ntoumanis &
Biddle, 1999), the results of the present study demonstrate that, when the meaning of
achievement emphasized in physical education is based on personal improvement and effort
levels, students respond in an adaptive fashion. As hypothesized, perceptions of a masteryoriented climate were strongly related to the more self-determined forms of situational
motivation (i.e., identified regulation and intrinsic motivation). In contrast, perceptions of a
performance-oriented climate were strongly related to less self-determined types of situational
motivation, specifically external regulation and amotivation. The strong association between a
performance climate and amotivation is of particular concern as when amotivated people either
do not act at all or act without intent. Amotivated individuals, therefore, are expected to
withdraw e ffort and believe success to be uncontrollable and unlikely in achievement settings
such as physical education. Clearly, individuals reporting this nonself-determined form of
situational motivation are unlikely to be active or engaged in the activity. In addition to
providing empirical support for the utility of examining multidimensional situational motivation
in the context of physical education, the conceptually coherent pattern of relationships also
suggests that perceptions of a mastery climate may play a potentially important role in increasing
and sustaining motivation, while perceptions of a performance climate are related to a far less
adaptive motivation process.
Recent position statements from the USDHHS and NASPE have emphasized the importance of
increasing the number of adolescents who engage in recommended levels of physical activity
(USDHHS, 1996, 1997, 2000; Corbin & Pangrazi, 1998). While the results of the present study
support the well documented decline in physical activity with age, particularly for girls, they also
suggest a positive approach to ameliorating this trend and enhancing activity levels. Consistent
with the recent intervention research of Solmon (1996) and Treasure and Roberts (2001), the
results of the present study suggest that efforts targeted at developing mastery-oriented physical
education experiences will result in positive consequences in physical activity. In addition, the
results of the present study suggest that when students perceive a motivational climate
emphasizing self-referenced assessment of ability they display what Vallerand and colleagues
referred to as a "self-determined motivational profile" (i.e., high intrinsic motivati on, high
identified regulation, low external regulation, and low amotivation) (Vallerand, 1997; Vallerand
& Fortier, 1998). The data in the present study, therefore, clemonstrate that that if physical
educators want to facilitate self-determined situational motivation and activity levels they should
look to create social conditions that foster perceptions of a mastety oriented climate. Future
research, therefore, should look to develop strategies and guidelines to assist practitioners in
developing mastesy-oriented climates and focus on examining the relationship between
perceptions of the motivational climate, situational motivation, and physical activity over time.
Table 1
Cronbach alpha coefficients and descriptive statistics for each measure
Overall (N =442)
Age (years)
Total Steps
BMI (kg/[m.sup.2])
Mastery climate
Performance climate
Situational motivation
Intrinsic motivation
Identified regulation
External regulation
Perceived ability
Boys (n =
Age (years)
Total Steps
BMI (kg/[m.sup.2])
Mastery climate
Performance climate
Situational motivation
Intrinsic motivation 1.07
Identified regulation 0.98
External regulation 1.12
Perceived ability
Boys (n =
Girls (n = 229)
12.46 0.92
5,048 816
20.28 3.93
3.71 0.68
3.20 0.60
5.02 1.01
5.00 0.98
3.62 1.22
3.49 1.16
2.82 0.58
Note. M = mean; SD = standard deviation; BMI = body mass index.
Table 2
Correlations between students' perceptions of the motivational climate
and situational motivation
Performance climate Mastery climate
Situational motivation
Intrinsic motivation
.274 *
.555 **
Identified regulation
External regulation
.317 *
.490 **
.505 **
.527 **
.130 *
.104 *
* p < .01.
** p < .001.
Table 3
Hierarchical multiple regression analysis showing variance predicted by
gender, perceived ability and perceptions of the motivational climate in
physical activity.
Unstandardized beta [R.sup.2] change
Perceived ability
Perceptions of a mastery climate
Perceptions of a performance
climate x perceived ability
Total [R.sup.2] F change (4, 437)
Perceived ability
Perceptions of a mastery climate
Perceptions of a performance
climate x perceived ability
p value
Perceived ability
Perceptions of a mastery climate .001
Perceptions of a performance
climate x perceived ability
Note. n.s. = not significant.
Submitted: December 4, 2001
Accepted: July 19, 2002
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Authors' Note
At the time of this study, the first author was with the Department of Kinesiology at Arizona
State University. Please address all correspondence concerning this article to Darren C. Treasure,
Arizona State University, Department of Kinesiology, P.O. Box 870404, Tempe, AZ 852870404.
E-mail: [email protected]
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