The effects of integrated classroom based physical activity on on-task behavior for Aboriginal children in grades four and five


In Canada, there is a wide academic achievement gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth. The rate of high school non-completion for on-reserve Aboriginal Peoples is approximately 61% (Statistics Canada, 2006).  The need to close the educational achievement gap is great given the growth of the Aboriginal population in Canada. A variety of approaches will be necessary to address this complex problem. Increasing physical activity is one method that is worth investigating; it is relatively simple to implement in comparison to other strategies. Research over the past decade has consistently shown that physical activity improves the learning ability and academic performance of children (Tomporowski et al., 2011; CDC, 2010). Purpose: This study examined the effects of short classroom based physical activity lessons (CBPAL) that incorporated curricular content on the on-task behavior of grade four and five participants at an on-reserve elementary school. Methods: This study utilized participatory action research methodology, which engaged teachers and community leaders in its design. Time on task was assessed for thirteen participants (N=13) through direct observation before and after a CBPAL and before and after an inactive classroom lesson. A two way [time (pre lesson vs post lesson) x period (active lesson vs non active lesson)] repeated measures ANOVA was conducted. Results: The CBPAL were effective in improving the on task behavior of the participants. On task behavior scores decreased from pre to post lesson in the non active lesson period, while on task behavior scores increased from pre to post lesson in the active lesson period. The two way repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant time x period interaction [F(1, 12) = 36.067, p< .001]. Conclusion: This research illustrates that incorporating physically active lessons that reinforce curricular content into the classroom may be an effective way to improve the on-task behaviors of Aboriginal children.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Research Award