Date of Award

8-9-2014

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Instruction and Teacher Education

First Advisor

Rhonda Jeffries

Abstract

There is sufficient empirical evidence that children are more unfit now than ever before in the history of the United States. Defeating childhood obesity is a critical agenda issue for the First Lady Michelle Obama as the medical community and the United States at large continually cite research that obesity, poor nutrition, and low physical activity may affect children’s cognitive and physical outcomes. Much of the research in this area is quantifiable and measurable through body mass index, the number of repetitions of certain exercises, and physical stamina. As schools search for solutions to address this epidemic, school nutrition and increased minutes of physical activity have been the primary methods of doing so. However, an area of interest is creating transference from physical education class and healthy meals in the context of school to the personal lives of students.

The purpose of this study is to analyze interviews of participants in a before-school running program, their teachers, and their parents to understand the relationships that exist in the lives of students that foster perseverance with rigorous physical activity. The research site is an elementary school in rural South Carolina where 82% of school attendees receive subsidized meals. Through an evaluative case study of interviews with six students, four teachers, and three parents, self-determination theory, achievement goal theory, and self-efficacy theory frame this examination of the relationship factors that contribute to student perseverance in this before school running program. Through triangulation of the interview process, I develop a framework for understanding the relationships that exist in the lives of the students which contributed to their motivation to persevere to the point of completing a five-kilometer race. Through interviews with students who did and did not persevere and examining all aspects of the structure of the program, a clearer understanding of the requirements for successful continuation of the before-school running intervention at this site will be discussed.

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