Implementing the OPTIMAL model : the impact on students' motivation in an elementary school games environment
Sheppard, Joanna C.
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Optimal challenge occurs when an individual perceives the challenge of the task to be equaled or matched by his or her own skill level (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). The purpose of this study was to test the impact of the OPTIMAL model on physical education students' motivation and perceptions of optimal challenge across four games categories (i. e. target, batting/fielding, net/wall, invasion). Enjoyment, competence, student goal orientation and activity level were examined in relation to the OPTIMAL model. A total of 22 (17 M; 5 F) students and their parents provided informed consent to take part in the study and were taught four OPTIMAL lessons and four non-OPTIMAL lessons ranging across the four different games categories by their own teacher. All students completed the Task and Ego in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ; Duda & Whitehead, 1998), the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI; McAuley, Duncan, & Tanmien, 1987) and the Children's Perception of Optimal Challenge Instrument (CPOCI; Mandigo, 2001). Sixteen students (two each lesson) were observed by using the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time tool (SOFTT; McKenzie, 2002). As well, they participated in a structured interview which took place after each lesson was completed. Quantitative results concluded that no overall significant difference was found in motivational outcomes when comparing OPTIMAL and non-OPTIMAL lessons. However, when the lessons were broken down into games categories, significant differences emerged. Levels of perceived competence were found to be higher in non-OPTIMAL batting/fielding lessons compared to OPTIMAL lessons, whereas levels of enjoyment and perceived competence were found to be higher in OPTIMAL invasion lessons in comparison to non-OPTIMAL invasion lessons. Qualitative results revealed significance in feehngs of skill/challenge balance, enjoyment and competence in the OPTIMAL lessons. Moreover, a significance of practically twice the active movement time percentage was found in OPTIMAL lessons in comparison to non-OPTIMAL lessons.