Physical activity is essential for children’s current and future health, but most do not get their recommended daily 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Children spend most of their waking hours at school, thus this location is extremely important for activity accrual. Investigations of physical activity, its contexts, and associated variables (e.g., policy and practices) in schools are needed, but researchers are often challenged by having limited access to studying these environments. Unobtrusive, valid, and reliable data collection is essential to gaining access to schools and doing research there. Recently a number of direct observation tools have been designed, tested, and validated that permit the unobtrusive assessment of physical activity while simultaneously providing contextually-rich data on the school environment. These tools have the advantages of flexibility, high internal validity, low inference, and low subject burden. As their protocols and training videos are freely available on the web, their popularity is increasing.
This webinar, designed primarily for researchers:
- Identified the importance of using direct observation to assess physical activity and its contexts in schools;
- Discussed common research topics associated with using this methodology, including IRB approval, validity, reliability, observer training and maintenance, using video, and selecting the appropriate unit of analysis;
- Identified the location of free written and video resources for research protocols and observer training; and
- Provided advanced information on two observation systems used widely in schools, SOFIT and SOPLAY.
- Systematic Observation of Physical Activity in School Contexts: List of Resources
- SOFIT (System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time) is used to simultaneously assess student physical activity levels, lesson context, and instructor behavior during structured physical education classes.
- SOPLAY (System for Observing and Leisure Activity in Youth) is used to assess student physical activity during leisure time settings (e.g., recess), and includes the simultaneous recording of activity area contexts such as accessibility, usability, and the presence of supervision, equipment, and organized activities.
Thomas L. McKenzie, PhD, San Diego State University
Dr. McKenzie is Emeritus Professor of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University. He has authored/co-authored over 200 scientific papers and led the development of numerous physical activity observation systems, including SOFIT, SOPLAY, and SOPARC.
Monica A. Lounsbery, PhD, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Dr. Lounsbery is Vice-Provost for Faculty, Policy and Research at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has been the Principal Investigator, designer, and observer trainer of numerous physical activity studies using SOFIT, SOPLAY, and SOPARC in schools and community parks.
Chad Spoon, MRP, Active Living Research, webinar moderator
Chad is Communications & Partnership Manager for Active Living Research, where he focuses on providing credible and action-oriented research results that address the root causes of childhood obesity and physical inactivity. He offers ongoing technical assistance and training to researchers and practitioners and assists with the translation and dissemination of research results.