COE doctoral student earns research award

By Mary Murphy

The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America recently named UNT College of Education doctoral student Alan Chu as the recipient of its 2016 Graduate Student Research Award. Chu is an Educational Psychology major focusing on sport pedagogy.

This award is given to outstanding graduate students who have been chosen to present their research at the annual SHAPE America National Convention and Expo, this year set for April 5-9 in Minneapolis. Chu was selected out of more than 80 applicants.

Chu received the award for his research and presentation abstract titled "School Physical Activity Environment Impacts Hispanic Children's Motivational Outcomes." This study was part of a larger project funded by Chu's advisor, Tao Zhang, UNT associate professor of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation. Chu formulated his own research questions for his portion of the project and chose to focus on health-related outcomes among Hispanic children because of the documented higher rate of obesity and physical inactivity in that community.

During his study, Chu collected data from fourth- and fifth-grade P.E. classes at four schools in Denton ISD. He wanted to determine how an elementary school's physical environment (e.g., the school's gym space and equipment) and social environment (e.g., the prevalence of and support for physical activity among classmates and teachers and the quality of P.E. teachers) affected Hispanic students' feelings and behaviors concerning physical activity.

"Being an international student myself, culture is rooted in my research interests," Chu said. "Through this project, I could understand more about how people of a different culture may be motivated differently, and how we as adults can do a better job of motivating diverse children to adopt healthy behaviors."

Chu's study revealed that an elementary school's physical activity environment had an effect on the students' three basic psychological needs for motivation (autonomy, relatedness, and competence), how much effort they put forward in P.E. class, and their overall physical fitness. The results showed how important it is to develop motivational interventions for Hispanic students through improvement of elementary schools' physical activity environments.

Chu will present his research findings in a sub-session at the 2016 SHAPE America National Convention and Expo.

"SHAPE America is the biggest organization in my field that impacts the physical education and health education of every school in the country," Chu said. "I am excited to be able to present my research and increase the awareness of P.E. teachers and school administrators in on the impact of a school's physical activity environment on children."