A motivational model of physical education and links to enjoyment, knowledge, performance, total physical activity and body mass index.

Author:Grasten, Arto
Position::Research article - Report


Active living benefits health at all ages but is essential to the successful development of wellbeing in children and youth (World Health Organization, 2015). Since most young people in several Western, African, and Asian countries require more daily MVPA (Tremblay et al., 2016), there is a major need to promote physical activity. It is widely accepted that positive perceptions of physical competence, autonomy, and relatedness in school PE lead to higher intrinsic motivation and intentions to be physically active (Hagger, 2014; Ntoumanis, 2005; Vallerand and Lalande, 2011). Given that girls normally accumulate less MVPA than boys (Tremblay et al., 2016) and students with high BMI report lower perceptions of physical competence than students with lower BMI (Carissimi et al., 2017; Craft et al., 2003), more studies are needed to reveal relationships between girls' and boys' BMI and behavior in PE classes (Rauner et al., 2013). Additionally, less is known about associations between behavioral, affective, and cognitive outcomes in PE and overall MVPA (Ntoumanis, 2005). The present paper aimed to examine the links between motivational climate, basic psychological needs, intrinsic motivation, enjoyment, knowledge, and performance in PE, and total MVPA in addition to BMI and gender differences.

An integration of the Achievement Goal Theory (Nicholls, 1989), the Self-determination Theory (Deci and Ryan, 2017), and the Hierarchical Model of Motivation (Vallerand and Lalande, 2011), which has previously been successfully applied in PE contexts (Grasten, 2014; Hagger, 2014; Ntoumanis, 2005; Standage et al., 2005), was used as a framework in the current study. Multi-theory models may allow researchers to comprehensively understand motivational processes in a way that a single perspective may not fully achieve (Hulleman et al., 2008). Specifically, the Achievement Goal Theory provides a framework to understand the relationships between the psychological environment and contextual outcomes in PE, whereas the Self-determination Theory focuses on the effects of PE classes on students' basic needs and motivation. Finally, the Hierarchical Model of Motivation captures the whole picture including social factors, psychological environment, and individual behavior in PE.

The Achievement Goal Theory postulates the motivational processes in PE, such as motivation is dependent on the motivational climate largely generated by teachers (Nicholls, 1989). Task-involving motivational climate relates to teaching structures that support effort and cooperation, and emphasize learning and self-referenced criteria for evaluation, whereas ego-involving motivational climate refers to learning situations that advance normative comparisons and competition (Ames, 1992). Previous research has revealed that task-involving climate in PE is positively related to perceived physical competence (Grasten et al., 2012), intrinsic motivation (Yli-Piipari, 2011), importance of PE (Grasten, 2016), PE enjoyment (Barkoukis et al., 2008), physical activity in PE (Bowler, 2009), and total physical activity (Ruch et al., 2012). In contrast, perceptions of an ego-involving climate in PE is either negligibly related or negatively related to similar outcomes (Grasten et al., 2012; 2015). Previous findings have shown that girls perceived higher perceptions of a task-involving climate, whereas boys reported higher perceptions of an ego-involving climate in PE classes (Moreno-Murcia et al., 2011).

The Self-determination Theory (Deci and Ryan, 2017) outlines that intrinsically motivated young people are more likely to perceive their physical activity experiences as positive, and further, to be physically active. The development and functioning of intrinsic motivation are specified using the concept of basic psychological needs, namely competence, autonomy and social relatedness. Physical competence refers to one's beliefs about ability and the need to interact effectively with the environment to attain successfully valued outcomes (Deci and Ryan, 2017). In other words, if students are allowed to exercise at their own skill level in PE, they are more likely to feel competent (Alderman et al., 2006). According to previous studies, perceived physical competence has consistently been linked with intrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan, 2017; Standage et al., 2005), enjoyment in PE (Fairclough, 2003; Grasten et al., 2012), and self-reported physical activity (Cox et al., 2008; Yli-Piipari, 2011). Typically, boys score higher than girls in physical competence (Fairclough, 2003) and students with high BMI may have lower perceptions of physical competence (Craft et al., 2003).

Autonomy is the desire to influence one's own behavior and to achieve consistency between the particular activity and sense of self-determination (Deci and Ryan, 2017). In school PE, students who feel that they have more activities to choose from, are more likely to be physically active than if they are forced to participate in a single activity (Alderman et al., 2006). PE teachers should promote class structures that support autonomy, since this facilitates the development of self-determined motivation in PE classes (Standage et al., 2005) and physical activity (Standage et al., 2005). In a large Finnish study of Grade 9 students, boys scored higher than girls did on perceived autonomy in PE (Soini et al., 2007).

Relatedness represents the need to feel connected and to perceive acceptance from other people (Baumeister and Leary, 1995). Standage, Duda, and Ntoumanis (2005) concluded that although the peer group clearly has the potential to impact on students' motivation, the role of social relatedness in PE is widely unknown. Students may engage in physical activities, because they want to avoid being isolated from a group (Standage et al., 2005). PE classes which support students' perceived social relatedness, predict the likelihood of PE enjoyment (Cox et al., 2008) and physical activity engagement (Cox et al., 2008; Standage et al., 2005; Taylor et al., 2010). However, several studies have found competence to be the strongest predictor of intrinsic motivation compared with autonomy and relatedness in the domain of PE (Standage et al., 2005; Taylor et al., 2010).

Based on the Self-determination Theory, human behavior can be intrinsically motivated, extrinsically motivated, or amotivated. The regulation of motivation reflects a continuum, comprising different levels of self-determination, from intrinsic motivation to amotivation (Deci and Ryan, 2017). The types of motivation differ in their degree of relative autonomy (Deci and Ryan, 2017). The most essential element is intrinsic motivation, which refers to motivation that comes from inside an individual. For instance, an intrinsically motivated student participates in activity for interest and enjoyment without external obligations (Deci and Ryan, 2017). By contrast, extrinsic motivation refers to motivation that comes from outside. In the context of PE, this would be akin to performing better than other students perform. These rewards provide satisfaction and pleasure that the task itself may not provide (Deci and Ryan, 2017). Amotivation is defined as a state of lacking any motivation to engage in an activity or perform activities without purpose (Deci and Ryan, 2017). In a Finnish study of middle school students, boys scored higher on instrinsic motivation than girls in PE context (Yli-Piipari, 2011). The present study focused on intrinsic motivation, since it has been considered as the most essential dimension of exercise motivation (Deci and Ryan, 2017; Hagger, 2014; Yli-Piipari, 2011).

The central assumption of the Hierarchical Model of Motivation (Vallerand and Lalande, 2011) is that social factors (e.g. task-involving motivational climate) are positively associated with basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, relatedness) and intrinsic motivation. Further, intrinsic motivation relates to contextual consequences that can be cognitive (e.g., knowledge), affective (e.g., enjoyment), and behavioral (e.g., performance in PE, MVPA) (Deci and Ryan, 2017; Vallerand and Lalande, 2011). Specifically, cognitive outcomes refer to the mental process of knowing, including aspects of awareness, reasoning, judgement (Deci and Ryan, 2017; Vallerand and Lalande, 2011) or giving a value (Eccles et al., 1984). Cognitions as contextual outcomes are largely unknown, since more studies with a larger number of contextual units are needed (Ntoumanis, 2005). Affective outcomes comprise, for instance, effort (Ntoumanis, 2005), enjoyment (Grasten et al., 2012), and intention to be physically active in leisure time (Hagger, 2014; Standage et al., 2005). Behavioral outcomes such as physical activity participation have been widely studied with boys being more physically active than girls (e.g. Lonsdale et al., 2009; Yli-Piipari, 2011). However, the full sequence of a Hierarchical Model of Motivation including all types of contextual outcomes in PE classes has not been empirically tested.

To date, previous research has consistently showed decreasing levels of MVPA, especially in early adolescence (Tremblay et al., 2016) and the positive role of social factors mediated by basic needs satisfaction and intrinsic motivation in relation to positive consequences in school PE (Hagger, 2014; Ntoumanis, 2005; Vallerand and Lalande, 2011). Less is known, how motivation is linked with PE enjoyment, knowledge, performance, and total MVPA engagement. In addition, a limited set of studies considering the interrelationships of PE motivation and BMI have been reported (Rauner et al., 2013). Therefore, more corroborating evidence is needed to provide support for the role that motivation in PE has on behavior (Hagger, 2014; Ntoumanis, 2005; Vallerand and Lalande, 2011) and to reveal relationships between overweight and behavior in PE classes (Rauner et al., 2013). The present...

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