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Linking Research and Training in Internationalization of Teacher Education with the PEERS Program: Issues, Case Studies and Perspectives

Edited By Jean-Luc Gilles

The PEERS program proposes international exchanges adapted to the context of teacher training institutions wishing to take advantage of internationalization in order to link training, research, and practice. PEERS is based on the completion of Research and Innovation (R&I) projects during the academic year, during which international groups of professors and students from teacher training partner institutions collaborate remotely as well as during two placements of one week. For the students, the PEERS program aims to develop competencies in distance collaboration with the help of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the management of intercultural groups, and the continuous improvement of their activities through reflective thinking and the spirit of research. For the professors the PEERS program aims to better link research and training, to reinforce their skills in the management of international research projects and to foster opportunities for international publications.

The aim of this collective book is to give an overview of the Issues, case studies and perspectives of the PEERS program. The first section entitled "Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges for the Internationalization of Teacher Training in a Globalized, Multicultural, and Connected World", focuses on the foundations and general features of PEERS projects, as well as the context of globalization in the intercultural and connected world in which it is situated.

The second section, "Case Studies and Lessons Learned from the PEERS Project in Southern Countries" constitutes a series of chapters presenting case studies on PEERS projects focused on innovation and cooperation in the developing world. The third section, "Results of Research-Oriented PEERS Projects," considers the results from PEERS projects that have enabled the implementation of theoretical and practical educational research, generally taking the form of small-case research studies or innovations in the design of teaching units. Finally, in the conclusion we propose to present the key points of the three sections that make up this book "Linking Research and Training in Internationalization of Teacher Education with the PEERS Program: Issues, Case Studies and Perspectives".

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Chapter 13: A Comparative Analysis between Physical Education Physical Fitness, Motivation, & Self-Concept in Middle School Swiss and US Students (Vanessa Lentillon-Kaestner Sheila Alicea / Rock Braithwaite)

Vanessa Lentillon-Kaestner*, Sheila Alicea** and Rock Braithwaite** – –

* University of Teacher Education of State of Vaud, Teaching and Research Unit in Physical Education and Sport (UER-EPS), Lausanne, Switzerland

** Humboldt State University, Kinesiology & Recreation Administration, Arcata, California, USA

Chapter 13: A Comparative Analysis between Physical Education, Physical Fitness, Motivation, & Self-Concept in Middle School Swiss and US Students


An international exchange (PEERS program) was realized between physical education (PE) teacher students and teacher educators from Switzerland and America. This collaboration was used to develop an international research project. The purpose was to compare the physical fitness, motivation, and self-concept of Swiss and American students in (PE). Participants included 418 students from middle schools in Switzerland (n=301) and the US (n=117). Fitnessgram physical fitness measures included cardiovascular endurance (PACER), muscular endurance (curl-ups), muscular strength (push-ups), flexibility (back-saver sit-and-reach), and body composition (BMI). Questionnaires included the Motivation in Physical Activity Measure-Revised (MPAM-R) and the Physical Self-Description Questionnaire-Short Form (PDSQ-S). A MANOVA was used to test statistical differences between the groups. Results showed that the Swiss students had higher cardiorespiratory endurance levels but lower motivation (enjoyment, competence, fitness) and self-concept scores (endurance, strength, flexibility, self-esteem) than American students. Further studies on larger samples should be carried out to confirm these results.←227 | 228→

1. Introduction

An international exchange (PEERS project) was conducted during three school years between physical education (PE) teacher students and teacher educators from the State of Vaud of Switzerland (3 students, 1 professor) and the State of California of the United States of America (3 students, 2 professors). This collaboration was useful to discover the teaching of PE in both countries and to develop international research projects. This chapter aims to present the results of an international research project for the first two years. The purpose of this study was to compare the physical fitness, motivation, and self-concept of Swiss and American students in middle school PE classes. Because of differences in health behaviours and outcomes between Switzerland and United States, we hypothesized that Swiss middle school PE students would have higher fitness levels, greater physical activity motivation and greater self-concept than US students.

2. Theoretical Framework

2.1 Physical Fitness, Motivation, and Self-Concept among Swiss and American Students

PE has a role in the development of physical fitness, self-concept, and motivation (Castelli & Beighle, 2007; Tappe & Burgeson, 2004).

2.1.1 Physical fitness

PE provides opportunities for students to refine motor skills, to be physically active and to gain physical fitness (Castelli & Erwin, 2007). The five components of health-related fitness include cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and←228 | 229→ body composition. Fitness testing is a commonly used practice within the school PE curriculum of many countries (Morrow, Zhu, Franks, Meredith, & Spain, 2009). Few studies have estimated fitness condition because of conceptual and technical problems (Michaud & Narring, 1996; Naughton, Carlson, & Greene, 2006). In the United States, the Fitnessgram is a fitness assessment and reporting program for youth, first developed in 1982 by The Cooper Institute. The assessment includes a variety of health-related physical fitness tests that are used to determine students’ overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate (see <> for more information). The Fitnessgram is considered a valid and reliable measure of children’s physical fitness and has been used in previous research to measure physical fitness (Castelli & Valley, 2007; Welk, Morrow, & Falls, 2002). Being overweight has some consequences on the students’ experiences in PE (Trout & Graber, 2009). Trout and Graber (2009) showed that many overweight students perceived physical education to be of little or no benefit to them, due to negative experiences in PE. From a motivational standpoint, it is unlikely that students would desire to participate in a class if they believed it was not valuable. Castelli and Valley (2007) showed that engagement in physical activities among children was most likely influenced by the individual’s aerobic fitness, overall physical fitness, and motor competence. In addition, Jaakkola & al. (2013) found that physical fitness was positively related to perceived competence of students, which in turn had a positive association with situational intrinsic motivation of students toward fitness testing class.

2.1.2 Physical self-concept

Physical self-concept is a predictor of physical activity (Castelli & Valley, 2007; Hands, Larkin, Parker, Straker, & Perry, 2009; Spessato & al., 2013). A number of researchers have suggested that what students believe and how they think and feel can affect achievement in many ways (Lee, Carter, & Xiang, 1995; Motl, 2007). There is evidence to suggest that beliefs about ability and competence may be precursors to positive motivational patterns in students (Jaakkola & al., 2013; Nicholls, 1984). Perceived competence is related to successful performances in PE (Gao,←229 | 230→ Lodewyk, & Zhang, 2009; Xiang, McBride, & Bruene, 2004, 2006). For example, Gao & al. (2009) showed that middle school students’ ability beliefs emerged as significant predictors of Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) test scores.

2.1.3 Motivation

In addition to physical self-concept, motivation is an important factor implied in learning in PE. Concerning motivation in exercise and sport, the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motives for participants is very important (Ryan, Frederick, Lepes, Rubio, & Sheldon, 1997; Vallerand, 2004). Intrinsically motivated behaviours are those performed for the satisfaction one gains from engaging in the activity itself. According to most theories, the primary satisfactions associated with intrinsically motivated actions are experiences of competence and interest/enjoyment (Ryan & al., 1997). Thus, for the purpose of the current study we considered individuals whose participation was motivated mainly by competence and enjoyment as primarily having an intrinsic focus. By contrast, extrinsically motivated behaviours are those that are performed in order to obtain rewards or outcomes that are separate from the behaviour itself (Ryan & al., 1997). In the current study, we considered students who have body-related motives as primarily extrinsically focused, since their goals concern outcomes extrinsic to the activity per se. A student can develop both intrinsic and extrinsic sport motives, but their salience differs (Ryan & al., 1997). Contrary to extrinsic motives, intrinsic motivates facilitate positive outcomes such as well-being and academic achievement (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Lemos & Verissimo, 2014; Levesque, Copeland, & Pattie, 2010; Motl, 2007; Vallerand, 2004).

2.2 Difference in Health Behaviours and Outcomes Between Switzerland and United States

The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) is a World Health Organization (WHO) collaborative cross-national study, in which←230 | 231→ data is collected on 11-, 13- and 15-years old boys’ and girls’ health and well-being, social environments and health behaviours every four years in 43 countries, notably in Switzerland and United States. Some results from the HBSC 2009/2010 survey (Currie & al., 2012) compared the health behaviours and outcomes of Swiss and American youth including moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, sedentary behaviours, and body weight.

2.2.1 Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity

Physical activity is essential for both health outcomes and academic learning improvement. First, physical activity is essential for long- and short-term physical and mental health outcomes. The WHO estimates that 1.9 million deaths worldwide are attributable to physical inactivity and at least 2.6 million deaths are a result of being overweight or obese (WHO, 2002, 2005). In addition, the WHO estimates that physical inactivity causes 10 to 16 % of cases of breast, colon, and rectal cancers as well as type 2 diabetes, and 22 % of coronary heart disease, and the burden of these and other chronic diseases has rapidly increased in recent decades. Physical activity in adolescence may contribute to the development of healthy adult lifestyles, helping reduce chronic disease incidence and increasing well-being in adulthood (Hallal, Victora, Azevedo, & Wells, 2006; Lotan, Merrick, & Cameli, 2005; Malina, 2001; Merrick, Morad, Halperin, & Kandel, 2005; Strong & al., 2005).

Second, studies show that more physically active and fit students have better grades and achievement test scores than their less active/fit counterparts (Coe, Pivarnik, Womack, Reeves, & Malina, 2006; Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011; Field, Diego, & Sanders, 2001; Grissom, 2005). Participation in PE and physical activity can improve academic achievement by enhancing concentration and by helping students to be more attentive (Raviv & Low, 1990).

Strong & al. (2005) recommended that school-age youth should participate daily in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). In Switzerland (OFSPO, 2013) and in the US, the national recommendations are at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day for children and adolescents. In the HBSC←231 | 232→ survey (Currie & al., 2012), young people were asked to report the number of days over the past week that they participated in MVPA for a total of at least 60 minutes per day. Results showed physical activity decreased with age in both countries, with the percentages across all age groups in both countries low. Nevertheless, a higher frequency of daily MVPA was found among American than Swiss youth at each age: at 11 years-old, 24 % of American girls versus 11 % of Swiss girls, and 30 % of American boys versus 20 % of Swiss boys reported at least one hour of MVPA daily; at 15 years-old, 17 % of American girls versus 6 % of Swiss girls, and 33 % of American boys versus 12 % of Swiss boys reported at least one hour of MVPA daily (Currie & al., 2012).

2.2.2 Sedentary behaviours

Sedentary behaviour refers to an absence of or minimal involvement in physical activity, and low energy expenditure. A review of recent research revealed television viewing time was the most commonly measured sedentary behaviour. Time spent in non-occupational sedentary behaviours (particularly television viewing time) is associated with excess adiposity and an increased risk of metabolic disorders, with overweight and obesity and unhealthy dietary behaviours in children, adolescents and adults (Pearson & Biddle, 2011; Sugiyama, Healy, Dunstan, Salmon, & Owen, 2008). In the HBSC survey (Currie & al., 2012), young people were asked how many hours per day they watch television (including videos and DVDs) in their spare time on weekdays and on weekends. Results showed that Swiss youth spent less time watching TV than US youth (Currie & al., 2012): at 11 years-old, 24 % of Swiss girls versus 50 % of American girls, and 29 % of Swiss boys versus 56 % of American boys spent two hours or more per day watching TV; at 15 years old, this percentage increased among Swiss youth but it was always lower than among American youth (38 % of Swiss girls versus 53 % of American girls, 45 % of Swiss boys versus 54 % of American boys). In addition, cell phones increase opportunities for sedentary behaviours (e.g., surfing the internet, playing video games). Lepp, Barkley, Sanders, Rebold, and Gates (2013) showed that high levels of cell phone use indicated a broader pattern of sedentary behaviours←232 | 233→ such as watching television. Moreover, cell phone use was significantly and negatively related to cardiorespiratory endurance independent of sex, self-efficacy, and percent fat, which were also significant predictors. Buckworth and Nigg (2004) found that only computer use for men and television watching for women were negatively correlated with exercise and physical activity. In the same way, Sugiyama & al. (2008) showed, after adjusting for body mass index and socio-demographic variables, that women’s time spent watching TV was positively associated with time in other sedentary behaviours and negatively with leisure-time physical activity, but no such associations were observed in men.

2.2.3 Body weight

Overweight and obesity remain public health problems among young people (Rokholm, Baker, & Sorensen, 2010). Overweight and obesity impose high costs in health expenditure in countries. For example, according to a study of national costs attributed to both overweight and obesity, medical expenses in the US may have reached as high as $78.5 billion (WHO, 2009). The problems of overweight and obesity are higher in the US than in Switzerland: among 11 year-old youth, 5 % of Swiss girls compared to 30 % of Americans girls, and 7 % of Swiss boys compared to 31 % of Americans boys were overweight or obese; among 15-year-old youth, 7 % of Swiss girls compared to 27 % of Americans girls, and 14 % of Swiss boys compared to 34 % of Americans boys were overweight or obese (Currie & al., 2012).

2.3 PE Curriculum Differences Between the State of Vaud in Switzerland and California in US

There are various differences between the PE curriculum in the US and Switzerland including number of hours of PE per week, the evaluation, the number of students per teacher, coeducation, and PE uniforms. Concerning the number of required PE hours, students in Switzerland have three periods (45 minutes) of PE per week and one afternoon of sport every 15 days (only from the third school year). In the US, the standard recommendation←233 | 234→ is 200 minutes of PE for every 10 school days in elementary school and 400 minutes for every 10 school days in middle school. However, these recommendations may not be adhered to because of school budget issues, with the teaching of PE reduced or eliminated in schools with the lowest financial resources. During the 2007–2008 school year, time spent in PE in the US decreased by 23 %; elementary schools were the most affected by this problem. In addition, California along with 18 other states, agree to give PE exemption to high school students who wish to be exempted from PE classes if they can meet the “Healthy Fitness Zone” requirements of the Fitnessgram. Thus, 38 % of Californian students do not participate in PE lessons, and this rate increases dramatically with age, from 5 % at age 12 to 77 % at age 17 (CHIS, 2007). This decline with age was observed in California but a decline is also apparent in the entire United States.

There are also major differences between the number of students, sportswear requirements, and organization of students in PE classes in Switzerland and in the US. In Switzerland, the student-teacher ratio is 20:1, and in California the ratio may be as much as 100:1. The number of students per class in PE is the highest in California when compared to the rest of the states in the US. The California Department of Education recommends an average of 40 students per teacher, but in reality, the classes are much larger. For example, during the 2007–2008 school year, PE class size increased 26 %; meanwhile, the number of teachers was reduced 22 %. Thus, in recent years, the number of students in PE classes has constantly increased up to 100 students for one teacher (The California Endowment, 2008). In the US, middle school PE classes always include boys and girls in all classes, but in Switzerland, girls and boys are often separated. Sportswear is required in Swiss PE classes but not always in the US. Some schools have PE uniforms but in other schools the students can participate in PE with street clothes and shoes.

Finally, some differences exist concerning the evaluation in PE. Letter grades are given in PE classes in the US but not in the state of Vaud. In the state of Vaud, the teachers use an evaluation notebook to indicate each year the student’s success in activity practiced as well as the possible difficulties in physical activities. The students keep the same evaluation notebook during the three years of the middle school, so the←234 | 235→ progress can be directly visible from one year to another. Researchers have found that academic grades influence (positively or negatively) students’ achievement (Brookhart & DeVoge, 1999; Brookhart & Durkin, 2003). Assessment in PE can enhance or prevent learning, motivation and achievement (Alkharusi, 2008; Lund & Kirk, 2010). Students’ success of failure (in academic contexts) contributes to motivation and self-concept (Marsh & Martin, 2011; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002).

3. Methods

3.1 Sample

Participants included 418 students (ages 12–14 years) from middle schools in Switzerland (n=301) and the US (n=117).

3.2 Tools

Physical fitness was measured using assessments from the Fitnessgram (Cooper Institute, 2012). Fitnessgram physical fitness measures included cardiovascular endurance (PACER), muscular endurance (curl-ups), muscular strength (push-ups), flexibility (back-saver sit-and-reach), and body composition (Body, Mass Index, BMI). The PACER is a 20-m shuttle run at a specified pace that increases every minute. Results of curl-ups and push-ups were based on the greatest number completed to a cadence. The back-saver sit-and-reach measurement was performed on one side at a time; one leg is fully extended with the foot flat against the face of a box and the arms are extended forward over the measuring scale with hands placed one on top of the other. After one side is measured, the student switches the position of the legs and reaches again. The average of number of inches on each side was used for each student in the analyses.←235 | 236→

Questionnaires included the Motivation in Physical Activity Measure-Revised (MPAM-R) (Ryan & al., 1997) and the Physical Self-Description Short Form Questionnaire (PDSQ-S) (Marsh, Martin, & Jackson, 2010). The MPAM-R is composed of 30 items and 5 subscales: interest/enjoyment (7 items), competence (7 items), appearance (6 items), fitness (5 items), and social (5 items) motives (Ryan & al., 1997). Each item is rated on a 7-point Likert scale. Frederick and Ryan (1993) found internal consistency (alphas above 0.87 for each subscale) of the MPAM. The translation of this questionnaire in French language from Laure (2007) has been used. The PDSQ-S evaluated how an individual (middle school students) would describe themselves according to 11 different factors (subscales) (Marsh & al., 2010). The Self-Concept subscales selected for study included endurance (cardiovascular endurance), strength, flexibility, body fat, appearance, and physical satisfaction as there were specific connections to fitness and motivation variables; the coefficient alpha estimates of reliability for these subscales are 0.92, 0.92, 0.90, 0.96, 0.91, and 0.96, respectively (Marsh, 1996). Results from Marsh & al. (2010) demonstrated strong support for the psychometric properties and construct validity of the PDSQ generalizing to the PDSQ-S. The MPAM-R has been validated in the French language by Laure (2007) and the PSDQ-S by Guérin, Marsh, and Famose (2003, 2004), following the steps described in the translating approach for psychological tests developed by Vallerand and Halliwell (1983) and Valliéres and Vallerand (1990).

3.3 Procedure

Data were collected by student teachers during two successive school years (2012–2013, 2013–2014), in the classes of six Swiss student-teachers and two American student teachers. Data were collected at two different time points (with 8–10 weeks in between). For each data collection, all fitness tests and questionnaires were administered during a one-week period alternating fitness testing and questionnaires in order to account for potential fatigue.←236 | 237→

3.4 Statistical Analysis

The SPSS Software was used for all analyses and have been categorised by country and gender for fitness, motivation, and self-concept variables. Three 2 x 2 (country x gender) Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) procedures to test statistical differences between groups were conducted with follow-up univariate Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) procedures for post-hoc analyses that included a Bonferroni Correction to adjust the alpha level (α = .01).

4. Results

Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics for country and gender main effects for each of the dependent variables.

Table 1. PEERS Project 2012–14_Descriptive Statistics for Fitness, Motivation, and Self-Concept Variables.


←237 | 238→


Note. Mean (Standard Deviation). * p < .01.

Wilkes Lambda was selected as the multivariate statistic as there were violations in the normality for all fitness, motivation, and self-concept variables (univariate Kolmogrov-Smirnov < .05). Tabachnick and Fidell (2013) suggest that larger samples and group differences present challenges in normality due to errors in both skewness and kurtosis. To address normality review of expected normal probability plots was also conducted and results suggested minor deviations for group distributions. A bootstrapping procedure was also performed to correct for violations in assumptions homogeneity of variance and after the robust methods procedure (5 % trimmed mean) no violations were present for fitness, motivation, or self-concept variables. Results for the 2 x 2 MANOVA for fitness variables indicated that there were significant main effects for country F (5,681) = 10.648, Wilkes Lambda = .927, p < .001 and follow-up univariate ANOVA’s determined there were significant differences in the PACER and Curl-ups. Swiss middle school students (45.76) had higher PACER scores than did students in the US (36.61). Curl-ups scores for the US students (57.69) were greater than Swiss students (50.35). There was a significant main effect for gender F (5,681) = 20.181, Wilkes Lambda = .871, p < .001 and follow-up ANOVA’s determined that males were significantly greater for all fitness variables except BMI. There was also a significant interaction between country and gender F (5,681) = 4.805, Wilkes Lamdba = .966, p < .001, as both Swiss and US males (Swiss = 52.89, US = 40.05) were significantly better (p < .001) for←238 | 239→ cardiovascular endurance than Swiss and US females (Swiss = 32.93, US = 33.07). US males (60.15), Swiss males (54.65), and US females (55.19) had significantly better abdominal endurance scores than Swiss females (42.42). Figure 1 provides a graphical representation of the significant interactions.


Figure 1: Country * Gender Mean Scores for Fitness Variables.

The 2 x 2 MANOVA for motivation variables indicated that there were significant main effects for country F (5,763) = 19.413, Wilkes Lambda = .887, p < .001. Follow-up univariate ANOVA’s determine there were significantly higher scores for US students on the interest-enjoyment, competence, fitness, and social sub-scales. American middle school students had higher perception for Interest/Enjoyment, Competence, Fitness, and Social subscales than Swiss middle school students. There was also a significant main effect for gender F (5,763) = 11.348, Wilkes Lambda = .931, p < .001 and follow-up ANOVA’s determined that males were significantly higher motives for physical activity on interest-enjoyment, competence, appearance, and fitness variables. There was no significant interaction F (5,763) = 2.847, Wilkes Lambda = .982, p = .015.←239 | 240→


Figure 2: Country & Gender Mean Scores for Motivation Variables.

The 2 x 2 MANOVA for self-concept variables revealed a significant main effect for country F (6,732) = 61.072, Wilkes Lambda = .666, p < .001. Middle school students from the US had significantly higher perceptions of cardiovascular endurance (p < .001), strength (p < .001), flexibility (p < .001), and physical satisfaction (p < .001) as compared to the Swiss students who had higher scores for body fat (p < .001) and appearance (p < .001). A significant main effect for gender F (6,732) = 7.629, Wilkes Lambda = .941, p < .001 was also present as males had significantly (p < .01) higher perceptions of endurance, strength, appearance, and physical satisfaction. Finally, there was a significant interaction F (6,732) = 3.918, Wilkes Lambda = .969, p < .001 and follow-up ANOVA’s determined significant differences for strength (p < .001) and body fat (p < .01). US males (4.45), US females (4.32), and Swiss males (4.23) had significantly higher (p < .01) perceptions of muscular strength than did Swiss females (3.41). Swiss males (5.00) and Swiss females (4.49) had higher perceptions (p < .01) of body fat than did US females (3.63) or US males (3.32). Figure 3 represents the country gender interactions for self-concept variables.←240 | 241→


Figure 3: Country * Gender Mean Scores for Self-Concept Variables.

5. Discussion

5.1 Physical fitness among Swiss and American students

We hypothesized that Swiss middle school PE students would have higher fitness levels than US students. This hypothesis was partially supported. No significant differences between the Swiss and US middle school students were found for the push-ups, sit-and-reach, and BMI; however, differences were shown for the PACER scores and curl-up tests. The Swiss students had higher PACER scores than the US students, which supported our hypothesis. Gender differences were also evident. Swiss and US males had higher PACER scores than females in both countries. The US students had higher curl-up scores than the Swiss students, which did not support our hypothesis. US males and females and Swiss males had higher curl-up scores than Swiss females. In this←241 | 242→ study, we have used US fitness tests (Fitnessgram). US students are more familiar with these tests, and that may explain why our hypothesis is only partially supported.

One possible reason for the differences in cardiovascular endurance is the amount of time students are physically active throughout the day. The current physical activity recommendation for school-age youth is 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (Strong & al., 2005). However, many children in Switzerland and the US are not meeting that recommendation due to various reasons such as lack of time spent in PE overall, lack of time spent in MVPA in PE, and lack of physical activity outside of PE classes and sports due to other factors such as screen time.

According to results from the current study, it is vital that US and Swiss children are not only physically active, but that those activities should emphasize cardiorespiratory fitness in the US and abdominal/core training in Switzerland. Successful cardiorespiratory fitness programs typically have involved continuous moderate to vigorous activities for 30 to 45 minutes duration for three to five days per week (Strong & al., 2005). Swiss PE teachers should also incorporate more abdominal/core training two to three times per week in PE classes.

Ideally, students should participate in PE classes every day. However, this is rarely the case due to school budgets and limited resources. Therefore, PE teachers should make an efficient use of the time students spend in PE classes by ensuring students spend the majority of the class period in MVPA. Girls should be especially encouraged to participate; research has shown that on average, girls spent an average of only 37.9 % of PE classes engaged in MVPA (McKenzie & al., 2006). McKenzie & al. (2006) found that PE programs that include the provision of equipment, staff training, a teaching assistant, and an updated curriculum can be successfully implemented in US middle schools to ensure that participants spend at least 50 % of the class engaged in MVPA.←242 | 243→

5.2 Physical activity motivation among Swiss and American students

We hypothesized that Swiss middle school PE students would have greater physical activity motivation than US students. The hypothesis was not supported, as results showed the US students had significantly higher scores on the interest-enjoyment, competence, fitness, and social subscales than the Swiss students. Gender differences were also apparent; results showed males had significantly higher motives for physical activity on interest-enjoyment, competence, appearance, and fitness variables.

Overall, the motivation for physical activity of students in general was high, and results support previous research that emphasized youth are motivated to be physical active for multiple reasons such as enjoyment, competence, fitness, and to socialize with/to meet friends (Ewing & Seefeldt, 1996). In their review of the correlates of physical activity and sedentariness in youth, Van der Horst, Paw, Twisk, and Mechelen (2007) revealed similar positive associations were found; specifically associations between physical activity participation and gender (male), self-efficacy, goal orientation/motivation, and physical education/school sports. PE teachers (especially in Switzerland) should focus on creating a positive motivational climate and structure classes to encourage fun and skill building, increase fitness levels, and allow for positive social interactions. The lower motivation scores may be explained by the assessment modalities in PE. The first results of a current comparative study in three states of Switzerland (Vaud, Jura, Geneva) showed that the students’ intrinsic motivation scores in PE were lower in the state of Vaud (PE without grades) compared to the state of Jura (PE with non-summative grades) and Geneva (PE with summative grades; Allain, Deriaz, Voisard, & Lentillon-Kaestner, 2015). Additional considerations should also be taken to ensure girls are physically active throughout the class period in both the US and Switzerland.

5.3 Physical activity motivation among Swiss and American students

We hypothesized that Swiss middle school PE students would have greater self-concept than US students. This hypothesis was partially←243 | 244→ supported. Swiss students had significantly higher scores for body fat and appearance than US students; however, US students had significantly higher perceptions of endurance, strength, flexibility, and physical satisfaction compared to the US students. When compared with the actual fitness results, these results showed a conflict with the perceived fitness variables. Although US students perceived their endurance to be higher than the Swiss students, the PACER scores showed the opposite. Although not significant, the mean BMI for the Swiss students was slightly below the mean BMI for the US students; however, the Swiss students had higher perceptions of body fat than US students. In Switzerland, the PE teachers’ expectations may be too high, having negative effects on Swiss students’ physical self-concept.

Gender differences in self-concept were also revealed. US males and females and Swiss males had significantly higher perceptions of muscular strength than Swiss females. It is common for males to have a higher perception of muscular strength than females, due to actual changes that are occurring. During the middle school years, males and females may be entering puberty, and in adolescence boys gain additional muscle mass while girls gain more fat than muscle compared to boys (Haywood & Getchell, 2014). Middle school is also a period of time when social evaluation by peers becomes more important than in early childhood.

Both Swiss males and females had higher perceptions of body fat than US males and females. Body image disturbances are common among children, oftentimes even if the child has a healthy body composition (Smolak & Thompson, 2009). PE teachers should educate students about a healthy body composition, and ensure they are structuring classes and giving positive feedback to emphasize a healthy body image.

5.4 Limitations and perspectives

There were several limitations of this study. First, BMI data were calculated using self-reported height and weight measurements of the←244 | 245→ participants. Future research should include other means of measuring body composition.

Second, samples for this study were drawn from limited schools and only middle school children were included. The US sample was different from the Swiss sample (less school, less students). Therefore, results may not be generalizable to other areas of Switzerland and the United States or other grade levels. Future research should include other areas of the countries and additional grade levels for a more holistic look at the current issues.

Future research should also include examining additional demographic variables such as race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, as research suggests there are differences in fitness and self-concept among individuals from different race/ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses (Pate, Mitchell, Byun, & Dowda, 2011).

Finally, there was not an attempt to measure or explain cultural factors that might have influenced results between the Swiss and US samples. There were differences in class sizes, cultural norms, physical education curriculum delivery, and learning expectations. Additional efforts should be made to measure and collect data on variables that contribute to cultural differences. Participants included students from middle schools PE classes with various PE teachers and PE student-teachers in both countries. Future research should also include classes taught solely by a PE teacher. The influence of the teacher on a student’s fitness, motivation, and self-concept is also another variable that would be beneficial to measure.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, there are both country and gender differences between middle school students in PE programs in the United States and Switzerland. The information gained from this study can benefit PE programs in both countries. PE teachers in Switzerland should not be←245 | 246→ too exigent on students’ physical condition level and increase enjoyment and competence in sport and exercise practice. PE teachers in the US should help students to improve their cardiorespiratory endurance and be vigilant on negative appearance remarks. Nevertheless, further studies on larger samples should be carried out to confirm these results. In addition, beyond the research project, this international collaboration has allowed both teacher educators and students to discover other PE teaching practices, other PE teaching conceptions, which has been highly beneficial for their professional development.←246 | 247→