Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Joan Mazur


The purpose of this instrumental case study was to examine how a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) affects student on-task behavior, disciplinary referrals, as well as teachers’ perception of the CSPAP’s effect on student on-task behavior. Specifically, the impacts that doubling recess time and daily physical education (PE) at the study school site had on student on-task behavior was examined. Three research questions were examined, and each question contained sub-questions: 1) What is the school’s CSPAP? 2) What are the perceived effects of the CSPAP based on teachers’ perspectives? and 3) What are the instructional design elements of the CSPAP, based on an analysis from current literature? This case builds on previous research related to the effect of doubling the amount of recess on elementary student disciplinary referrals and achievement over time and the relationship between timing of recess breaks and discipline referrals among elementary children (H. Erwin, Fedewa, Wilson, & Ahn, 2019; Fedewa, Erwin, Wilson, & Ahn, 2021). The data were collected using interviews from 9 of the 33 certified staff members at an urban elementary school in the southeastern United States. The interviews were then transcribed and analyzed.

This elementary school is located in a state that requires 30 minutes of PE every day for every student in grades Kindergarten through fifth grade. This school comprises grades third through fifth with 470 students. The school has changed its CSPAP during the past two school years to include two recess periods as well as PE every day for all students. Prior to the 2019-2020 school year, this elementary school had PE every day but only a single recess period. The school administration along with the scheduling committee created time within the master schedule to accommodate the increased physical activity time. Based on these structural changes to their CSPAP, this elementary school was chosen for the case study.

Findings included an in-depth description of an upgraded physical activity approach at this elementary school. School personnel shared a common philosophy that physical activity was important and that the activity comes in two forms: structured PE for 30 minutes daily and two 10–15-minute recess periods scheduled throughout the day. The increased PE activities were to be structured and lead by the PE teacher and the PE assistant. The PE teacher and the assistant follow a planned curriculum and presented learning targets to the students. However, interviews revealed there is also a strong commitment that recess is guarded for free play and time for students to use their imagination and interact with each other in unstructured play.

The teachers interviewed expressed that physical activity helped to reduce classroom disruptions, increase focus, and preserve instructional time in the classroom. These findings are consistent with current research and literature suggesting that physical activity in schools has a positive effect on students. There were challenges reported with the approach. Some teachers noted that there was a loss of instructional time due to the increased physical activity. Others noted that it took students some time to wind down during the transition from PE to class or from recess to class. The analysis also confirmed the congruence of teachers’ perceptions to the actual disciplinary referrals in evidence at this school. The application of physical activity as a disciplinary and learning intervention at this school shows that adding physical activity could be a low-cost intervention to schools in lowering unwanted student behaviors that may be well received by teachers and administrators. Suggestions for mitigating challenges are offered.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)