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"Motivational PE" helps students set achievable goals

This is an excerpt from Physical Education for Lifelong Fitness, Third Edition by the National Association for Sport and PE (NASPE).


NASPE TG pp30.png

For goal setting to be effective, teachers must demonstrate that goals are important so that students learn how to set appropriate goals. Time must be provided in class for evaluation and reestablishment of new goals. Teachers can help students identify fitness areas that they need to develop. Teachers can help guide students to make appropriate decisions throughout the goal-setting process. The acronym MOTIVATIONAL PE may be helpful in teaching goal setting. The Goal-Setting Worksheet is an example of applying these concepts with students (see figure 2.1).

  NASPE TG pp31.png

  • M = Measure and monitor. Goal setting begins with measurement. Taking stock of student needs is the basis for effective goal setting and motivation. After goals are set, they must be constantly monitored to determine whether progress is being made toward their achievement. Goals must be written in measurable terms. Teachers must have time to monitor the progress of all students to ensure that they are having fun and are making progress toward goals. Too often teachers and students set goals but then do not revisit them, or set new ones, after the goals are met.
  • O = Outcomes defined that are optimally challenging. Teachers should use the Fitnessgram healthy fitness zone charts to identify achievable goals. They should provide knowledge about why fitness is important and how it is achieved. Teachers must help students define the desired outcome. Teachers are accustomed to writing objectives that specify conditions and outcomes that are measurable, and this format is the basis for a good goal. To have fun and not be bored, students must be challenged with tasks or goals that are difficult but achievable (i.e., they must be optimally challenged). Goals that are too difficult will be discarded; those that are too easy will not have value.
  • T = Time. If a goal can’t be reached within a specified time limit, then it is too difficult. Setting a time line for assessment is critical for appropriate monitoring of progress toward goal achievement. To remain motivated, students should have both short-term and long-range goals. The short-term goals should be achievable within one or two class periods, such as increasing the number of laps in the PACER assessment or increasing curl-ups by one per class session. Short-term goals are often process goals related to skill acquisition or form. Long-term goals should also have a time limit and should be achievable within a couple of weeks or a month. For students, focusing on a longer period may result in a loss of interest and enjoyment in the activity and the value of its outcome. The goals should specify the length of time needed to achieve the outcome, as well as a time line for reassessment.
  • I = Individualized. Students own the goal, and it must be tailored to meet their individual needs. Goals should not be competitive and should vary in level of difficulty, time, type of activity, and in the number of goals set. Individualization helps students with diverse needs. Well-prepared classes include a variety of activities from which students can choose. Allowing students to choose a variety of activities to meet their individual goals prevents boredom and provides opportunities for increased success. Younger students may need more teacher guidance, but as students develop, they should have autonomy in setting fitness goals and the activities that they will use to accomplish the goals.
  • V = Valuable. For a goal to have value, students set their own goals and determine the reward to be earned. For younger students, activities that are fun are valued. Providing rewards such as tokens that can be exchanged for choice activity time often increases the value of goal achievement. For adolescents, value is often enhanced when goals are linked with those of other students. Sharing goals and having goal partners validate success are effective ways to enhance the social value of goal achievement.
  • A = Active. Activity is a component of the goal-setting process. Active refers to the process of goal setting as well as to the achievement of its outcome. Students should select the aspect of fitness on which they wish to focus their efforts, record their own progress toward the goal, and have a say in the rewards received as a result of goal accomplishment.
  • T = Type. Providing choices (types) of activities that may be used to achieve the desired outcomes will enhance motivation to achieve the goal. Allowing choices can also help overcome barriers to success. Consider a goal leading toward enhanced aerobic fitness. A student might write that he will walk 1 mile (1.6 km) each day, but then winter weather may prevent walking. Teaching students about various activities that are available to achieve a fitness goal enables appropriate substitution of a different activity. Alternatives such as walking 15 minutes on a treadmill or performing step-ups will lead to the desired outcome. Providing choices will facilitate greater success than prescribing specific activities. Task stations are used to provide students with variety and choice of activities.
  • I = Incremental. Incremental refers to developmentally appropriate and safe progressions in levels of difficulty. When setting several goals, the easiest goal to accomplish should be the first goal. This approach will provide an initial successful experience. For optimal success, goals should be written so that the difficulty increases incrementally.
  • O = Overload. Within each goal, steps should be included that outline the process to achieve the student’s physical best. The principle of overload should be clearly stated in the wording of the conditions of the goal. The overload principle states that to adapt and improve physiological function and fitness, a body system (cardiorespiratory, muscular, or skeletal) must perform at a level beyond normal. A sample goal is that the student will achieve a health-enhancing level of aerobic fitness by adding one lap in the PACER per day (overload in time and distance).
  • N = Necessary. Adding to the concept of value is the point that the goal must be necessary, or important, to the student. By allowing students to determine their own goals, the chances that the goals will be important to them are enhanced. But the teacher must also provide incentives through instruction about the importance of health-related fitness so that the student has the capacity to understand which goals are important and necessary. Students should be challenged to respond to the question, “How will my life be different or better after I achieve my goal?” If the answer isn’t obvious, then the necessity of the goal should be called into question.
  • A = Authentic assessment. Assessment should be directly related to the goal and the outcome desired by the student as well as provide a connection to the needs and interests of the student. Weight-loss programs typically focus on reduction in girth rather than weight because this outcome is more authentically tied to what an individual client wants to achieve. Authentic assessment is also closely tied to the necessity component of goal setting.
  • L = Lifestyle. Student goals must be tied to achieving a healthy lifestyle. Students learn why certain behaviors lead to healthy lifestyles and why others lead to self-destructive behaviors. Using a journal to track behaviors and the feelings related to them should be a joint activity with goal setting. If goals don’t include connections to behavioral change, they become less valuable. This link is especially important when working with high school students. Teachers should help students see the connection between the goal and real changes that affect their futures. For younger students, linking goals with family activities and interests contributes to connections between school and home—and helps them better understand nutrition, exercise, and fitness from a global perspective.
  • P = Posted but private. Commitment to the goal is critical. Commitment is best achieved by writing the goals and having them signed by the individual and a goal partner. The partner is a motivator in the process and a support system when progress isn’t so obvious. Allow students to choose their goal partner, as well as the place for posting their goals. If lockers are truly private, posting the goals inside the locker door may work. Goal partners should be encouraged to check on progress daily (e-mail, instant messaging, or texting can be an enjoyable tool for today’s youth to communicate about goals). Goals should only be shared with the permission of the student, and privacy must be maintained throughout the process. Recognition in public is acceptable for some students when goals are accomplished, but for others, public recognition can be embarrassing and counterproductive.
  • E = Enjoyable. Enjoyment comes not only from participating in chosen activities that are fun but also from feelings of satisfaction in the accomplishment of challenging goals. Help students select activities that will ensure success as well as those that the students think are fun. Pairing students with friends as goal partners adds to enjoyment. Students don’t even have to be in the same class to be paired. Enjoyment can also be enhanced for younger children by involving family members, parents, or other teachers in the process.

Read more from Physical Education for Lifelong Fitness, Third Edition.



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