Title page for ETD etd-07082009-142239

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Zhang, Tao
URN etd-07082009-142239
Title Motivating Middle School Students to Be Physically Active: The Role of Supportive Environments
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Kinesiology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Melinda Solmon Committee Chair
Alex Garn Committee Member
Amelia Lee Committee Member
Brian Marx Committee Member
Thompson Davis Dean's Representative
  • Physical Environment
  • Social Environment
  • Achievement Motivation
  • Physical Activity
Date of Defense 2009-06-29
Availability unrestricted
It is clearly documented that promoting regular physical activity participation at young ages increases the likelihood that school-aged students will lead active lifestyles as adults. Unfortunately, more than a third of school-aged students do not engage in sufficient amounts of physical activity necessary to produce significant health benefits (USDHHS, 2000, 2008). Public health officials and physical educators highlight the importance of promoting motivation for physical activity by creating a supportive physical activity environment that should positively influence studentsí choices to be physically active. The major objective of this dissertation was to explore the roles of supportive social environments and physical environments on middle school studentsí motivation and participation in physical activity within and beyond physical education classes. Three related quantitative studies were designed to achieve this goal.

In study one, using self-determination theory as a framework, a structural model of hypothesized relationships among perceived social support from physical education teachers, psychological need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, and physical activity was tested. The findings supported the mediating role of psychological need satisfaction and intrinsic motivation on middle school studentsí physical activity. Guided by the social ecological model, the predictive strength of predisposing personal factors (self-efficacy), reinforcing social factors (parentsí support, friendsí support, and teachersí support), and enabling physical environmental factors (equipment accessibility and neighborhood safety) toward middle school studentsí physical activity was investigated in study two. The results of this study highlight the importance of multilevel factors on studentsí physical activity behavior.

The intent of study three was to integrate the constructs of self-determination theory with the social ecological model to predict middle school studentsí engagement in physical activity within and beyond physical education classes by testing hypothesized models. The findings indicated that it is possible to integrate self-determination theory with social ecological model, but the integration of these theories did not produce a superior model as compared to the individual theories. The overall results highlight the importance of supportive social and physical contexts in understanding middle school studentsí physical activity motivation and engagement, and provide an empirical evidence to guide implications for physical educators, administrators, health promoters, and researchers.

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