Improving Early Adolescent Girls’ Motor Skill: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Background

Physical activity (PA) levels decline substantially during adolescence and are consistently lower in girls. Competency in a range of fundamental movement skills (FMSs) may serve as a protective factor for the decline in PA typically observed in adolescent girls; yet, girls’ mastery in FMS is low. Although interventions can improve FMS, there is a lack of interventions targeting girls, and very few are conducted in high schools. In addition, interventions are usually conducted by researchers, not teachers, and thus have little chance of being embedded into curricula.

Purpose

This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based intervention, delivered by teachers, in improving adolescent girls’ FMS.

Methods

Four all-girls Australian secondary schools were recruited and randomized into intervention or control groups. In total, 190 year 7 girls (103 control/87 intervention; mean age, 12.4 ± 0.3 yr) completed baseline and posttest measures at 12 wk. Six FMS (i.e., catch, throw, kick, jump, leap, and dodge) were measured using the Victorian FMS Assessment instrument. Mixed models with posttest skill (i.e., locomotor, object control, and total skill) as the outcome, adjusting for baseline skill, intervention and control status, and relevant covariates, as well as accounting for clustering at school and class level, were used to assess the intervention impact.

Results

There were significant intervention effects, and large effect sizes (Cohen d) noted in locomotor (P = 0.04, t = 5.15, d = 1.6), object control (P < 0.001, t = 11.06, d = 0.83), and total skill (P = 0.02, t = 7.22, d = 1.36).

Conclusions

Teachers adequately trained in authentic assessment and student-centered instruction can significantly improve the FMS competency of early adolescent girls. Therefore, comprehensive teacher training should be viewed as an integral component of future school-based interventions.

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