In-class physical activity, cognitive load, and energy-balance knowledge in high school physical education

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anqi Deng (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Ang Chen

Abstract: One primary goal of physical education is to educate K-12 students to become physically literate individuals who value lifelong physical activity participation (SHAPE America, 2014). Physical literacy is based on the monism perspective which acknowledges physical activity participation as a mind-body integrated embodiment experience. To achieve physical literacy, the scientific knowledge about physical activity has been brought to the center of physical education to provide mindful, meaningful, and motivational learning experiences (Ennis, 2017). It has become necessary to delineate the relationship between cognitive and physical engagement as experienced by the learner as part of the monist embodiment process. Cognitive load theory (CLT) explains cognitive effort’s impact on learning behavior which can serve as a conceptual guide to inform us in making curricular and instructional decisions. Guided by CLT and built on my previous research (Deng et al., 2020), the purpose of this study is to clarify the role of cognitive load embedded in physical education learning experiences. Specifically, this study determines the impact of cognitive load on 9th grade high school students’ knowledge acquisition and in-class physical activity in a concept-based physical education curriculum. The dissertation study addresses four research questions: (a) Did the cognitive load impact 9th graders’ cognitive architecture about caloric-balance and healthful living concepts? (b) Did school SES-related class environmental factors influence 9th graders’ knowledge gain in a concept-based physical education context? (c) Did the cognitive load affect 9th graders’ in-class physical activity? And (d) did the cognitive-physical integrated learning experiences moderate by the students’ gender and race? The approach to addressing the questions was a secondary data analysis on a representative set of existing data collected in the Science of Essential Balance (SEB) project. Data from a stratified random sample of students (N = 150) who learned the entire SEB curriculum and completed all assessments were analyzed. A path analysis was used to address the first, second, and third research questions, while Hayes’ PROCESS v3.5.3 macro analysis was conducted to address the third and fourth research questions. Results showed that the reasoning tasks had direct positive effects on students’ knowledge gain (path coefficient i-Diet and i-Exercise =.34, p < .01; path coefficient myHealth, myWay =.39, p < .01) and in-class physical activity (R2 = .27, b = .41, p < .01). Descriptive tasks contributed to completing relational tasks and reasoning tasks (p < .01) but did not directly contribute to knowledge gain and in-class physical activity (p > .05). The Free and Reduced-Price Meal rates and student/teacher ratio did not have significant effects on students’ knowledge gain (p > .05). In addition, gender and race did not significantly moderate the association between cognitive learning tasks and in-class physical activity (p > .05). These results indicate the low cognitive load tasks, such as descriptive learning tasks, serve as necessary building blocks for completing high cognitive load tasks. The high cognitive load tasks, such as reasoning learning tasks, effectively contribute to students’ knowledge acquisition and in-class physical activity. Based on the monism perspective, the concept-based physical education curriculum was able to elicit high level cognitive and physical engagement to help students understand and perform physical activity holistically as an embodiment process. The cognitive learning tasks seem to be effective in balancing and integrating cognitive and physical demands in learning, which could assist physical literacy development. The findings further suggest the power of the concept-based physical education curriculum in overcoming potential barriers of low socioeconomic status and large class- sizes to provide productive learning opportunities to all students. [This abstract may have been edited to remove characters that will not display in this system. Please see the PDF for the full abstract.]

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Cognitive learning tasks, Curriculum intervention, High school physical education, Physical literacy, The concept-based physical education curriculum
Physical education and training $x Study and teaching (Secondary)
Movement education $x Study and teaching (Secondary)
Cognitive learning

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