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Empowering the future generation of teachers to promote optimal academic outcomes through physical activity: Transform-Ed!

      Objective: The physical activity levels of children in Australia are critically low and correlate with reduced academic achievement and poor health outcomes. Schools provide an ideal setting for physical activity interventions to help children move more. However, a lack of time and teacher overload are consistently mentioned as barriers to the sustained implementation of physical activity programs by teachers in schools. We know the quality of initial or pre-service teacher education has a significant impact on learning and teaching outcomes more broadly, but little is known about the implementation and effectiveness of embedding physical activity interventions in initial teacher education. Transform- Ed! is a novel active pedagogy intervention embedded in initial teacher education. It equips future teachers with innovative strategies to promote optimal academic outcomes through meaningful physical activity in the classroom. Framed by implementation science, this research investigated the reach, effectiveness, adoption, adaption, implementation and maintenance of the Transform-Ed! program, when embedded within the first year of an Australian Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree. A further aim was to provide guidance for the scale-up of the program.
      Methods: Pre/post surveys and post-program interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with key stakeholders (n = 5), lecturers (n = 6), and pre-service teachers (n = 274) involved in the 12-week Transform-Ed! program. The design, implementation, and evaluation of the study were systematically guided by all five dimensions of the RE-AIM (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance) framework. Linear mixed models, descriptive analysis and a framework approach were used to analyse the data.
      Results: Significant improvements were observed in pre-service teachers’ willingness, confidence, and competence to implement physically active pedagogic strategies following the intervention. Significant improvements were noted in pre-service teacher confidence and competence in the delivery of such strategies and their perceived effectiveness on student outcomes, while perceived barriers decreased. High adherence was consistently reported and the program was maintained after completion of the implementation trial. Four key themes spanning multiple dimensions and participant levels informed recommendations for program scalability: an “inter-systemic approach”, a “co-design” approach, “embedded in professional practice”, and “evidence of impact” on teacher practice.
      Discussion: Anchored in real-world settings and tethered by implementation science, this RE-AIM evaluation suggests Transform-Ed! could have the potential to advance the teaching capability of teachers, and improve the learning experience and physical and academic outcomes of children.
      There is no conflict of interest to declare by any author.