Physical activity - academic achievement: student and teacher perspectives on the 'new' nexus

Doune Macdonald, Rebecca Abbott, lisahunter, Peter Hay, Louise McCuaig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The association between physical activity/fitness with cognitive and academic functioning has become a topic of considerable research interest. Increasingly, schooling systems are being expected to respond to these relationships through curricular and extra-curricular interventions.Purpose: This paper reports on the qualitative findings of the impact of the Active Kids Active Minds (AKAM) intervention that included one hour of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity for the promotion of learning in a regional primary school in Australia. It gives student and teacher voice to the corpus of literature on physical activity and academic performance intervention studies that are gaining momentum in the bid to justify and promote forms of school-based physical activity.Participants: Twelve Year 5 students, their classroom teachers, and the school principal's perspectives are shared in this paper. They were key informants from 107 students and 5 teachers who participated in the intervention.Data collection: Students, their classroom teachers, and the school principal were interviewed individually or in groups by a member of the research team. Researcher field observations, along with a diary kept by the dedicated AKAM teacher, were used to interrogate the complexity and pragmatics of both delivering the intervention and succeeding in the intervention.Data analysis: Transcribed interviews were reviewed independently by the authors for recurring themes. Field observations and the AKAM teacher diary were used to triangulate interview data.Findings: Data suggested that the intervention group benefited from and welcomed the additional daily physical activity when it offered high time-on-task, fun, and reflected students' interests. The intervention design with a dedicated physical activity leader and professional development support seemingly promoted teachers' confidence and enthusiasm.Conclusions: While this intervention was designed to complement physical education, we raise questions about how physical activity in schools may be channelled towards a new wave of instrumental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-449
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • academic achievement
  • physical activity
  • policy implementation

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