Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Lindsey Turner, Ph.D.


Hannah G. Calvert, Ph.D.


Peter Boedeker, Ph.D.


Julianne A. Wenner, Ph.D.


The intentional integration of movement in elementary school classrooms—including both brief instructional breaks for physical activity, or the integration of physical activity with lessons—can benefit children’s physical health and education outcomes. Teachers are key implementation agents, but despite movement integration (MI) being considered an educational best practice, many classroom teachers do not regularly use it. The aim of this study was to obtain updated nationally-representative prevalence estimates in US public elementary schools, regarding four key outcomes pertaining to teachers’ implementation of physical activity: 1) school adoption of physically active lessons (PALs); 2) school adoption of physical activity breaks (PABs); 3) penetration rate to the classroom, defined as ≥50% of teachers using PABs; and 4) dose of PABs of at least 50 minutes per week. I examined variations in outcomes by school demographic characteristics, and hypothesized implementation facilitators (administrative support, financial resources, and presence of a wellness champion at the school). Surveys were distributed to a nationally-representative sample of 1010 public elementary schools in the US; responses were obtained from 559 (55.3%). In 2019–20, the weighted prevalence of schools having adopted PALs was 77.9% (95% CI = 74.3% to 81.4%), and PAB adoption was nearly universal at 91.5% (95% CI = 88.9% to 94.2%). Few demographic differences emerged, although PAL adoption was less prevalent at the highest-poverty schools (74.01%) and medium-poverty schools (77.0%) as compared to schools with the lowest student poverty levels (87.1%; p < .01). Across all four outcomes, associations emerged with implementation facilitators in multivariable logistic regression models. The prevalence of PAL adoption, PAB adoption, and dose of PABs were all significantly higher at schools where administrative encouragement occurred more frequently. For example, at schools where the administrator provided encouragement often, 97.8% had adopted PABs, versus 78.2% of schools where encouragement happened never or rarely (p < .001). Financial support was associated with implementation outcomes, including higher PAL adoption, PAB penetration, and PAB dose. Presence of a champion was associated with higher prevalence of PAL adoption. School leaders can play a crucial role in supporting their teachers’ use of MI within the classroom, including the provision of financial resources, encouragement, and supporting champions. Effective school leadership practices have the potential to positively impact health and education outcomes for children at a large-scale population level.


Available for download on Monday, May 01, 2023