Participation in Physical Education

This study will explore factors that may contribute to the level of participation in physical education classes. Previous research has shown that attractiveness to classmates plays a role in the exertion level of students. With exercise becoming an increasingly important component of our daily lives, it is essential individuals get as much as possible out of a class. That is why we must find what circumstances can best benefit the physical education classroom setting.

(Remers, Widmeyer, Williams & Myers 1995) found that large classes are heavily favored over medium size classes. The study was of college physical education classes. This study showed that there were several reasons that larger classes were preferred over medium classes; attractiveness to classmates and better group cohesion was among the top. Two other reasons that they did not expect to find were noise level and lower expectations. The noise level results were not expected because logic would tell you that the medium size class would have a lower noise level. Lower expectations in a larger class makes sense, but hardly seems like a good reason to prefer a large class to a medium one.

In contrast to (Remers, Widmeyer, Williams & Myers 1995), which found larger classes to be a benefit, (McKenzie, Marshal, Sallis & Conway, 2000) found that among junior high school student’s larger class sizes actually had a negative affect. The larger classes had lower involvement. This study also compared activity levels to national guidelines. In (McKenzie, Marshal, Sallis & Conway, 2000) boys were found to be more active than girls in all areas, which include skill drills, game play, and free play. The weekly totals of 25 minutes of vigorous activity and 83 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity were well below national objectives.

Similarly to (McKenzie, Marshal, Sallis & Conway, 2000), (Sit & Linder, 2006) found that males have a higher activity level than females. However, this study looked at both recreational and competitive sports. This study examined situational state balances and motives for sport activity participation. The group was competitive or recreational sports participants 14-20 years of age. The study found seven motivational factors: status, team/friend, excitement/challenge, skill, energy release, fitness, and situational factors. They assessed that male and competitive sport participants were more influenced by these seven motivational factors than females and recreational participants.
In another study (Cardon, Verstraete, Clercq, & Bourdeaudhuij, 2004) swimming and non-swimming classes were compared for activity level. Children 8-12 years of age were put in two classes, swimming and non-swimming. The student participation level in the swimming class was higher. Their moderate-to-vigorous activity level during swimming was 52% while non-swimming only produced 40%. The author made the point that for this reason swimming should be included in physical education classes. However, both classes were still below the national standards for activity level.
Group cohesion and individual adherence to physical activity has also been studied. Two areas were examined separately (Carron, 1988). The first area tried to link cohesiveness to adherence behavior in both organized sports and classrooms (Carron, 1988). The second examined individual perception of group cohesion to tardiness in recreation participants (Carron, 1988). Both studies concluded that group cohesion plays a role in individual adherence behavior. The results were the same for styles including fitness classes, recreational sports teams, and even elite sports teams.

In one secondary article by, (*Lottes, 1996), the focus was on how to reduce class size to increase student involvement. It was reported students do not feel comfortable in a normal health class because enrollment is too high. This is an area in which students express anxiety talking in front of the class. Gettysburg College decided to lower class size to around 15 as opposed to the 30-35 averages. They did not have enough faculty members to cover the class, so they had to sign on extra help in the form of volunteers, coaches, and even a foreign language professor. Faculty took sections of the health class that they had the most experience with. This system worked and students became much more relaxed and involved. This supports the idea that smaller classes are a benefit to physical education.

(National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research 2005) studied third grade classrooms in academic courses, which used whole group activity. Teacher behavior and classroom climate were only slightly correlated with class size or teacher experience. Student engagement was found to be higher when more instructional and emotional support was given. Positive class environment and teacher sensitivity had a significant impact on the children. Participation was minimally affected by class size, but teacher involvement had a large influence.

Sticking with the elementary level and influences of participation, (Finn & Pannozzo, 2004) looked at kindergarten classes for engagement and learning behaviors for the class and for individual students. The areas of full or half day, class size, and whether teacher aid was present were variables. Class behavior was largely influenced by length of day (half day was better behaved) and class size (small classes were better behaved). Student aids were not a factor in behavior. Individual student behavior was not significantly correlated to class size or length of day.

The purpose of this research is to examine internal and external factors that affect participation and attendance in fitness style physical education classes. Exploring this plays a vital role in understanding what is most beneficial for the students. Finding these factors can lead to a better understanding in those areas.
I intend to explore the areas of class size and type of class. Since I am manipulating the size and type of class this would be considered the independent variable. The participation level and attendance are the dependent variables. The study will involve three class sizes and three different types of classes. These three classes will be fitness walking, jogging, and mini marathon training. These classes all have a different level of expected participation and exertion because they all require different paces and distances. I expect this to influence the results in our previously mentioned categories.
Recent studies have shown that there are several reasons participation level is affected. Those that have already been addressed are age, sex, race, and types of classes. Studies have already shown that large classes are preferred over medium classes. The rationale behind this is better class cohesion, more attractiveness to classmates and lower expectations of both the class and instructor. This has contributed to higher overall satisfaction and higher exertion rates. However, I want to explore the affects of small, medium, and large classes and the differences they present. I suspect that small classes may have a positive affect on participation and exertion. I also want to further explore the theory of larger classes being more desirable than medium classes.
Participants and Design
My hypothesis is that smaller classes will have a higher participation level and better attendance than medium and large classes. Also, higher intensity classes will have higher participation level and better attendance than medium and low intensity classes.
Three class sizes were used: a small class (10-15 people), a medium class (26-40), and large class (60 plus). There also will be three different types of physical education classes. These classes are fitness walking, jogging, and mini marathon training. These classes are open to all students; thus, there is no way to equally distribute the classes based on gender, age, or demographic data.

Measures
This research will take place during the spring 2007 semester. Participants will not know they are being examined until the last week of the semester. However, they will be given a questionnaire in their first and last week of class. The first questionnaire will ask questions about their expectations in the class. This will include level of exertion, attendance, energy level of instructor, one on one time, and various other questions relating to expectations. The questionnaire handed out on the last week of class will ask a lot of the same questions, but whether their expectations in the class were met. Questions concerning the professor’s preparation, amount of time given in class to be active, activities, and classmates will all be addressed. This form will also involve questions where the students can recommend areas of improvement. These questionnaires will be on a seven point Likert scale ranging from never (1) to always (7).
There will be three instructors taking part. Each will teach all three class sizes in their area of expertise. Expertise is based on types of classes the instructor has taught in the past. Participants will be analyzed by the student’s attendance and quantity of participation. Quantity of participation will be based on how long the class is given to exercise that day and how long each participant is involved in the daily activity. For instance if the participant walks for 20 minutes and the instructor has assigned them 30 minutes to be active they have a quantity of participation of 67%. This information will be evaluated and graphed. The different classes and sizes will then be compared to see which size and activity level is best suited for secondary education classes. This information should give us knowledge of what we need to provide students so they are able to get more from the physical education classroom setting.

The number of students in each class has already defined class size. Attendance taken by the instructor was averaged out for the entire class. Each class has a mean and a standard deviation. Quantity of participation was a formula figured by dividing the number of minutes active by the number of minutes the instructor gave students to be active. This number would be in decimal form and then would be converted to a percentage. Two researchers were to watch each class. After the class was over the researchers would compare their results. They would have to come to an agreement on 90% of one class before continuing to the next class.
Procedures
Participants were signed up for fitness walking, jogging, or mini marathon training through a university physical education class. Depending on which class participants enrolled in they could be in a class of 10-15 students, 26-40 students or 60 plus students. During each class students would be given a daily exercise routine. The students would exercise for the remaining time after the instructor explained the routine.
On the first day of class instructors told the students that participation is a significant part of the grade. They went over the course syllabus and made them aware of their expectations. The instructors also told the students that they would be observed closely to see how much effort they are putting forth. However, the instructors did not tell the students that they are being observed as part of a research project. The students were not made aware of the experiment until the last day of class when they were asked to fill out their second questionnaire. It was then that I asked each student to sign a consent form for his or her results to be shared. If a student chose not to sign the form his or her information was discarded (30 participants were eliminated from the study). Participants (N=318) that met all guidelines were 55% female. Also, 48.5% were Caucasian, 25.4% African-American, 17.6% Latin American, 6.4% Asian, and 3.1% Muslim. Ages ranged from 18-36 years of age (M=25.7 and SD 3.48). Figure 2 on page 17 shows participants that were included or excluded from results. Figure 3 on page 17 shows a more detailed look at the age range of participants.
Each class was observed by two of the six researchers. Two researchers were assigned to all sizes of a specific class (fitness walking, jogging, or mini marathon training). Since the areas where the classes took place are not closed during use, the researchers were easily able to sit in. The researchers sat in on random days and had two tasks when sitting in on a class. The first task was to observe whether any outside factors were manipulating their data. Factors could include bad weather, instructors’ participation, or a disruptive student. If it was found a certain class had outside influences that class would be disregarded. The second task was to measure the quantity of participation of each student. Since this category is determined by amount of time spent doing the activity divided by the number of time given to do the activity, it was an easy equation to figure. Each researcher was assigned to watch the whole class. They calculated their results separately during the class. The researchers then compared one class at a time and had to agree on 95% of that class before continuing. Grades and attendance were kept by the instructor and were not needed until the end of the semester.
Each researcher was a graduate assistant who has taught at the university level. These instructors have all taught these three types of classes before. Since they have taught these classes they know what is expected of the instructor and the students. In addition each of these researchers has taken part in prior research and is familiar with collecting and analyzing data.
Data Analysis
I have visually inspected my data for outliers and non-linear relationships. There was no data that was outside the normal scores. All students involved in the research were well within the expected area. Probability levels were set at .05.
A series of one-way ANOVA was the process used to analyze data. Figures 4-7 located on pages 17 & 18 are each one-way ANOVA ran. These ANOVA’s include comparing 1. Attendance in small classes to medium and large classes,
2. Participation in small classes to medium and large classes,
3. Attendance in high intensity classes to low and medium intensity classes, and
4. Participation in high intensity classes to low and medium intensity classes.
The group means were found in both attendance and quantity of participation. Both categories were based on three class sizes and three class types. The questionnaires will also be scored to see what other factors students felt influenced their participation and attendance.
Results
I wanted to find possible factors influencing participation in physical education classes. The areas I wanted to study were class size and class type. With the study we have conducted we can break these categories down individually. Participation and attendance were not influenced by either category.
Figure 1 on page 16 shows the quantity of participation. Participation was evaluated in the three different class types as well as the three different sizes. The nine totals are grouped by type of class and a color is give to each class size. Results found that class type does have an influence on participation. The mini marathon class had the highest participation followed by jogging and finally walking. The data also showed that class size influenced participation. In all three types of activities small class size (10-15) had the highest level of participation followed by large classes (60+). Medium classes (26-40) finished last. The data that was conducted reached a .83 level
Table 1 on page 16 shows the absences for each of the nine classes. The absences are presented by the mean and a standard deviation is provided to show the curve. The results are similar to the finding of the quantity of participation graph. The mini marathon classes on average had fewer absences, followed by jogging, and finally walking. Absences were also the lowest in smaller classes. Larger classes were second and medium classes were third. The data collected for this reached a .91 level.
A relationship between class type and class size could impact participation. Results supported higher activity type classes. In the table results attendance was lowest in smaller classes and highest in medium classes. For instance, not only is quantity of participation higher in mini marathon than walking, but in small classes versus medium classes as well. Combining these two factors shows that quantity of participation is even more significant between small mini marathon classes and medium walking classes. The same results are found for attendance.
Class size and class type were both factors that contribute to attendance. Class size found students of small classes to be more likely to attend class followed by large and medium classes respectively. Class type found that students in the more active classes were more likely to attend class.
Class size and class type were also factors in quantity of participation. Results showed smaller classes had a higher quantity of participation followed by large classes and medium classes respectively. Class type showed that more active classes had a higher quantity of participation. Figure 8 on page 18 (class intensity) and figure 9 on page 19 (class size) show the mean and standard deviation of attendance and participation.
The questionnaires revealed some other potential factors that should be included in future research. In the questionnaire given prior to the start of the semester students identified the instructors preparation, instructors expectations, and group cohesion as the three main factors that could influence their participation and attendance in class. However, at the end of the semester a final questionnaire was given and the students revealed attractiveness to classmates, group cohesion, and student’s expectations to be the three factors that contributed to their own participation and attendance.
Discussion
The purpose of this study is to find potential factors that contribute to participation in physical education classes. Results found that participation and attendance could be affected by class size and class intensity. This study had two purposes. The first was to compare attendance and participation in smaller classes to medium and large classes. In our study smaller classes did have better attendance and higher participation than both medium and large classes. The second was to compare attendance and participation in high intensity classes to medium and low intensity classes. In our study high intensity classes did have better attendance and higher participation.
My findings had a different result than (Remers, Widmeyer, Williams & Myers 1995) because they concluded that larger classes are the best setting for physical education classes. My results show smaller classes to be the most favorable. However, just like (Remers, Widmeyer, Williams & Myers 1995) my research did show that large classes are preferred over medium sized classes.
My research found intensity level to be a factor. (Cardon, Verstraete, Clercq, & Bourdeaudhuij, 2004) concluded that swimming classes are beneficial to physical education because the high intensity level raises participation. My study also found that high intensity classes have higher participation.
A study in physical education classes, (Carron, 1988), found group cohesion to be a factor in participation. In my questionnaires, both before and after the study, students identified group cohesion as one of the top three motivational factor of participation. (Carron, 1988) found adherence to exercise to the other main factor, but this was not listed by any student on either of the two questionnaires.
This studied showed that participants in physical education prefer smaller class sizes. In small classes both attendance and participation level were higher than in medium and larger classes. This is important for university physical education departments and instructors because they can go into a class having a better idea of what to expect. If staffed properly universities can focus on smaller classes in order for the experience to be more effective for students.
This study also showed participants performed better in high intensity classes. In high intensity classes attendance and participation was higher than low and medium intensity classes. Universities can also use this information to have a better understanding going into a class. They can plan a more vigorous routine in the high intensity classes because the student’s expectations of these classes are higher. The combination of small classes and high intensity classes show even greater attendance and participation. This is key for instructors to plan the semester and to have legitimate expectations for the class.
Group cohesion, instructor’s preparation, instructor’s expectations, student’s expectations and attractiveness to classmates have all been identified by participants to be other key factors in attendance and participation. The more factors that an instructor can facilitate can help keep the students involved. The goal of this study was to find factors that could influence participation. Using what we have learned could contribute to a higher student satisfaction. Higher satisfaction can lead to better health.
Limitations to my study could include design and selection of participants. The design could be limited because I did not account for participant exertion. I measured the participation level by taking the time spent working out by the time given to work out. However, I did not test to see how hard each participant was working out. It could be possible that most participants were working at a low level of exertion.
The selection process could also influence the results. Since this was a physical education class I could not decide for myself who would be involved. It was just a matter of who signed up for what class. If I would have controlled the environment results could be different. Joining a class with a friend, year in school, and major course of study could all be possible influences in participation. Since I did not account for this there is no way of knowing if it was a factor.
In my research classes were limited to a walking/running type format. Different types of classes such as weight training or a particular sport might yield different results. If the researcher can find a proper way to calculate the participant’s exertion rate this should be done. Future research should take demographics and schooling into consideration. Age, sex, race, anthropometrics, year in school and major course of study are all factors that could influence participation in physical education classes. Exploring these areas could lead to a better understanding of student engagement.
Exploring attendance and participation based on class size and intensity level yielded useful results. Both class size and intensity levels are factors that contribute to attendance and participation. Students could benefit from smaller and higher intensity classes. Using this information is key to benefiting the student. With a more positive environment to work in students are more likely to return. They are also more likely to sign up for future classes. This could improve the health of many people.

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