How do I approach program evaluations?

Data and program evaluations are used to inform critical decisions that impact participants, staff, and stakeholders. I understand the importance of collecting and evaluating valuable data. Hence, I aim to have open communication with program leaders and stakeholders, so that I can incorporate their insights into the evaluation itself. Gathering feedback from others allows me to create high-quality evaluations that will directly help determine crucial decisions.

Furthermore, I always aim for a quick turnaround and clear visualized findings when working with program staff and my own team. Time seemingly flies by, and thus, programs often have tight timeframes for data collection, evaluations, and interventions. I am committed to promoting health and well-being through research, data collection, and evaluation.

To see an example of an evaluation report I have created, click this hyperlink here. This evaluation report is about school recess.

How would children improve school recess? A qualitative focus group exploration

Recess is an important opportunity for child development. Recess is generally the only unstructured time during the school day where children can focus on play, fun, and socialization. Children have valuable perspectives of recess, which can totally be used to inform recess itself!

However, when it comes to recess, adults have significantly more decision making power around recess than children. Recess is for children, but adults make all the decisions. How can we get children more involved? Can we ask their opinions?

2PLAY lab sought to explore children’s perceptions and recommendations for improving recess. We then made an effort to translate findings into practical solutions that can be used by schools.

We went to four public elementary schools in three rural school districts in the Pacific Northwest. These schools serve mostly White and Latinx families in low-to-middle income brackets. We held 17 focus groups, and 89 elementary students in 2nd through 5th grade volunteered to participate. They shared their valuable opinions of recess.

  • Following data collection, a content analysis was conducted. Two themes were developed that highlighted important areas of dissonance.
    1. First, while recess was coded as a place of socialization, this included both positive (i.e., friendships) and negative (i.e., bullying, exclusion) socializing influences.
    2. Second, while children discussed a need for rules and rule enforcement at recess, they often did not understand the reasoning behind rules and recognized different adults enforced varying rules.
  • To help alleviate these areas of dissonance, children made recommendations for improving recess:
    • Children want more access to recess (i.e., more frequent and longer recess periods)
    • They want more inclusive and nontraditional recess activities — like drawing and board games
    • They ask for boundaries between areas of the playground
    • Students want to use their voice to help shaping the rules that govern recess
    • They also want consistent adult implementation of those rules

Overall, the focus groups show that children are aware of both the problems and solutions relating to recess. Their perspectives can provide valuable insight during intervention planning.

This work included the help of the following 2PLAY lab members: Janelle K. Thalken, Isabella Ozenbaugh, Maya Trajkovski, Alexandra Szarabajko, & William V. Massey

If you enjoyed recess as a child, will you be more active later in life?

My colleague Alex Szarabajko and I presented at the virtual SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) 2021 conference.

The co-researchers are William V. Massey, Janelle K. Thalken, and Sean P. Mullen.

Video from SHAPE 2021 Conference

Enjoying recess as a child predicted how much you enjoyed physical activity later as an adult. Being excluded during recess as a child was associated with being socially isolated as an adult.

Essentially, if you experienced social exclusion within a physical activity as a child, it is possible that you do not enjoy or engage in physical activity later as an adult.

This study supports similar research which found that being picked last in PE (Physical Education) or not enjoying PE as a child was related to being less active later in life (Cardinal et al., 2013; Ladwig et al., 2018).

The research publication can be found in the academic journal entitled Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Authors are William V. Massey, Alexandra Szarabajko, Janelle K. Thalken, Deanna Perez, and Sean P. Mullen.

School Recess + Adults = ?

I recently presented research on how adults can influence school recess.

This year the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Exercise and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) hosted a virtual conference. Instead of the traditional poster presentation, my lab created a short 4 minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube.

Find the YouTube video below:

School Recess + Adults = ?

Often, when we think of recess, we think it’s all fun and games — but, actually, a lot of bullying and teasing can happen during recess too. So, the purpose of our study was to check out problems during school recess and try to figure out why these problems happen.

In order to do this, our lab went to 25 different schools throughout the USA and observed 112 recess periods. We used a guide (called The Great Recess Framework-Observational Tool) to help us observe recess. While we were out on the playground during recess, we also wrote down some notes to help us remember what we were noticing. We jotted down notes about (1) safety, (2) student behaviors, (3) adult behaviors, (4) physical activity, and (5) what happens right before and after the recess bell rings.

After we were all done going to schools, our lab re-read all the notes. We tried to notice any patterns from our notes.

We noticed a few patterns. First, we noticed problems with the schoolyard itself — like holes in a chain link fence, lots of trash, or broken rusty play sets. Problems with the schoolyard seem connected to safety problems; kids could easily run into a busy street or trip over hidden holes in the grass.

Second, we noticed that there were often too many kids in a small schoolyards with not enough things to play with (like jump ropes or balls). When this happened, it seemed like the same kids were usually left out and excluded from playing during recess. We noticed that older boys usually got to play, but others couldn’t. For example, 6th grades boy would play soccer and 5th grade boys would play basketball, but other kids could only just walk around or watch.

We might think that children can handle recess all by themselves, but adults can be a part of recess too. They can help make sure things go well for all the kids. For example, the principal or vice principal can walk around the school yard before recess starts to make sure there are no holes in the fence or rusty, broken play equipment. Teachers or yard monitors can make sure the balls are being shared with everyone — not just the oldest students. If a kid is being bullied or teased, adults can step in and stop this. Even better, adults can play and hang out with kids during recess. For example, teachers can pitch the ball in kickball, be goalie in soccer, or shoot some hoops in basketball.

School Recess + Helpful Nice Adults = Fun Safe Recess for More Kids!

OSU Research Team: Deanna Perez, Janelle Thalken, Alexandra Szarabajko, Laura Neilson, & William V. Massey

Kinesiology Program | School of Biological and Population Health Sciences | College of Public Health and Human Sciences