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Over the years, adolescent's motivation in physical education has declined gradually as they have progressed through the academic school years. Exercise and sports participation has been established as an important factor in reducing the risks of many health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Therefore sustained exercise may enhance both psychological and emotional well being. Consequently, an issue for physical educators is how to motivate and encourage individuals to engage in physical education in order to maintain fitness.
Motivation is defined as an inner impulse that causes an individual to act in a particular way. Thus motivation is the key for developing and enhancing an individual's skill. Physical educators often find it very challenging, when encouraging adolescents to engage in extracurricular sport activities. Motivation is often difficult to achieve, but can be successfully instilled in an adolescent by employing several techniques such as, setting goals, reinforcement and feedback.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has been studied extensively in education and sport. Cognitive evaluation theory states that intrinsic motivation is driven by an innate need for competence and self determination in dealing with one's surroundings. Intrinsically motivated individuals voluntarily participate in activities out of self interest, and experience satisfactory feelings of competence and autonomy along with positive emotions such as enjoyment. These feelings in turn serve to maintain or increase a person's intrinsic motivation for a particular behaviour. Whereas, extrinsic motivations occurs when individuals are motivated by external factors, such as social recognition and rewards (Gill, 2000). Deci & Ryan (1981) found intrinsically motivated individuals adhere to participation better than extrinsically motivated individuals.
Student's motivation for physical education may be influenced by multiple factors, what motivates on one student may not motivate another. In accordance to the cognitive evaluation theory an individual's desire to practise a particular activity depends upon whether one's feelings of competence, autonomy and positive affect continue over time, if the individual's feelings change to incompetent the intrinsic motivation is undermined resulting in either extrinsic motivation or amotivation. Competence is the desire to interact effectively with the environment and to attain valued outcomes (White, 1959) Autonomy refers to the degree of violation one feels in pursuing an activity and the need to feel congruence between an activity and one's value.
Locke (1960) pioneered the goal setting theory, when he concluded that clear goals and subsequent feedback could motivate individuals. The goal setting theory suggests that behaviour is motivated to the achievements of goals (Locke & Latham, 1990). The theory implies that goals enhance motivation through a cognitive process. The process of setting a goal identifies the standard of performance required for achievement. Locke & Latham (1990) said in order for goals to enhance motivation they should be specific so that individuals have a clear understanding of what behaviours are required to achieve the goal, and at a level of difficulty that is challenging but attainable. The more challenging the goal, the greater the reward is, compared to an easy goal.
Sallis & Mckenzie (1991) argued that positive experiences in physical education could influence children to adopt physically active lifestyles, consequently improving their health. Therefore it is important to understand the motivational processes that can determine whether individuals will regard physical education as a valuable, enjoyable and rewarding experience. Positive motivation related experiences in physical education are often the outcome of adaptive motivational strategies used by physical educators. (Papaioannou, Marsh & Theodorakis, 2004)
In school students have to participate in physical education as it is a compulsory subject in the curriculum. Therefore it is necessary for the physical educator to create a comfortable environment in which students feel in control of their choices. Mosston & Ashworth (1986) found teaching styles which were less direct and more students oriented were more likely to produce intrinsic motivational attitudes amongst students. For that reason, physical educators should create opportunities for students to choose their own activities, equipment and encourage students to modify the rules to what they feel comfortable with. Physical educators should also provide students with alternate activities reflecting individual differences of capability and difficulty.
Furthermore, physical educators should provide structure within a class; this should be done by providing students with instrumental help and support .Skinner (1991) found by providing instrumental support, help and guidance, educators increased the likelihood of successful outcome in classrooms.
Intrinsic motivation and perceived competence can be enhanced when coaches provide useful feedback in which they suggest how to improve next time. Horn (1985) observed the feedback provided by coaches to their players and examined the impact the feedback had on their perception of competence. Results showed perceptions of competence were enhanced, when coaches provided informative feedback to players.
Similarly, Ryan, Mims & Koestner (1983) found when educators used rewards which informed participants about their abilities, participants were more intrinsically motivated than those who received controlling rewards such as trophies. Implying intrinsic motivation and perceived competence can be enhanced when teachers provide useful feedback and suggestions about how an individual can improve their performance. This is supported by Orlick & Mosher (1978) who found when rewards were used to control participant's behaviour; they were less likely to continue with the activity in the absence of a reward, than those who initially performed the activity without a reward.
During classes, physical educators should help individuals to set specific goals which are challenging yet attainable. Danner & Lonky (1981) found when participants were challenged during a task; they were more likely to enjoy themselves and were determined to spend extra time doing the task. Therefore when individuals participate in activities which challenge them in a positive way they feel self determined, as their competence is enhanced leading individuals feeling intrinsically motivated to participate.
In order to encourage adolescents to engage in more extracurricular activities, both the cognitive evaluation and goal setting theory can be employed by physical educators to develop a fitness scheme. The scheme will be designed to encourage greater exercise participation which in turn will show a measurable improvement in adolescent's fitness and health. The scheme typically involves referring adolescents who display risks for developing Conroy heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure to a leisure facility where an physical educator prepares a ten week exercise program. Before preparing the program, the student will be interviewed in which their strengths and weaknesses will be recognised. The physical educator will promote a sense of purpose by teaching the value of physical activity to health and the quality of life. The student will then be given the opportunity to choose their own activities and equipment. The students will then be asked to set a specific yet challenging goal, in regards to their program, for example, a student may set the goal to run 5k by the end of the first week. This goal is challenging yet attainable in respect to the students level of fitness. Once the goal has been achieved the adolescent will be rewarded with useful feedback and reinforcement from the physical educator, who will suggest ways to improve their skills. They will then be asked to evaluate their progress made and set another goal which is significantly more challenging. Adolescents pay a nominal fee for participating on the scheme but once the scheme is complete and if they wish to continue attending they have to pay the full entrance fee.
The aim of the scheme is to encourage regular physical activity. The scheme if successfully applied will intrinsically motivate adolescents to engage in extracurricular sport activities as the scheme promotes choice giving the adolescents a perception of control. The scheme provides adolescents with knowledge of the benefits exercise may promote, giving the adolescent a sense of purpose for choosing to participate. This may eventually lead to the development of cognitive skills such as fitness self evaluation, and promote activity in the future. Consequently, resulting in intrinsic motivation. Unfortunately, such schemes do not generally produce long term changes and once the 10 week scheme is over adolescents may return to a sedentary lifestyle.