Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Physical Education

First Advisor

Collin A. Webster

Abstract

Principal involvement is essential to the successful uptake of new school programs and initiatives. Recommendations and research underscore the key role of principals in supporting a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP), which is a coordinated and synergistic approach to ensuring school-age accumulate the nationally recommended amounts of daily physical activity (PA), as well as develop the knowledge, skills and confidence for lifetime participation in PA. Little is known about the extent to which principals in the United States are involved in CSPAPs or about the factors that are associated with such involvement. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine principals’ CSPAP involvement in the United States from a social-ecological perspective, which considers multiple levels of influence on a targeted behavior.

Two studies were conducted. In the first study, a survey was developed to measure principal’s CSPAP involvement and social-ecological variables that may be associated with such involvement. Items were constructed using existing literature and pilot tested with content experts in the areas of CSPAP, social-ecology theory, and school leadership. A preliminary version of the survey was then sent to a convenience sample of principals for their feedback and to explore item loadings. Based on the results, the survey was finalized and sent to the main study sample, which was identified using stratified random sampling from a list of all U.S. public schools. The survey remained open for three weeks. A total of 291 principals completed the survey (10% response rate).

Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) found a four-factor solution to be the best-fitting model for the data. The factors included (a) involvement, (b) intrapersonal level of influence, (c) interpersonal level of influence, and (d) environmental level of influence. All four factors were significantly associated.

The second study adopted a person-centered perspective of principals’ CSPAP involvement. Using data from the first study’s main study sample, latent profile analysis incorporating the three social-ecological factors (intrapersonal, interpersonal and environmental levels of influence) was used to distill distinct groups of respondents. The best-fitting model included four groups: (a) high perceptions of environmental support but low perceptions of intrapersonal and interpersonal support, (b) slightly below average perceptions of support at all three levels of influence, (c) lowest perceptions of support, particularly at the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels of influence, and (d) slightly above average perceptions of support at all three levels of influence. In reference to the fourth group, scores on CSPAP involvement were significantly lower for the other three groups. Additionally, in relation to the fourth group, as scores on a scale measuring satisfaction with personal K-12 physical education experiences increased, the likelihood of membership to the third group (arguably the least adaptive group) significantly decreased.

Overall, this dissertation provides initial validity and reliability evidence for a survey instrument to assess principals’ CSPAP involvement and social-ecological factors associated with such involvement and shows that a social-ecological perspective has utility in understanding differences in principals’ CSPAP-related perceptions. The results can inform professional development efforts aimed at increasing principals’ involvement in, and support of CSPAPs.

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