It’s Not Just What You Do but the Way You Do It: A Systematic Review of Process Evaluation of Interventions to Improve Gross Motor Competence

Jiani Ma, Natalie Lander, Emma Eyre, Lisa Barnett, Inimfon Essiet, Michael Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Motor competence is an important predictor of health behaviours. However, levels of motor competence are low in children and adolescents. Many interventions have improved motor competence, yet intervention effects were highly variable. Potential causes of such variations are not fully understood. Process evaluation can assist with the understanding of why an intervention worked or not, but its application and reporting in motor competence interventions has received little attention.

The primary aim of this review was to investigate whether process evaluations have been reported in interventions to improve motor competence and, if reported, which process evaluation measures have been used. A secondary aim was to explore the association of intervention characteristics and process evaluation findings (outcomes of process evaluation measures) with intervention outcomes, in a search for what process evaluation measures may impact on intervention functioning and outcomes.

The process of conducting and reporting this review adhered to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. The review protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019124412). A systematic search of seven electronic databases (i.e. MEDLINE [via EBSCOhost], Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials [CENTRAL], CINAHL, Academic Search Complete, Education Database, SPORTDiscus and Scopus) was conducted with no date restrictions. Eligibility criteria included the following: (1) a study sample of typically developing children and adolescents aged 5–18 years, (2) an intervention aimed to improve motor competence, (3) an intervention included a control group, (4) a report of motor competence outcome at both pre- and post-intervention. Only original articles published in English in peer-reviewed journals were considered. Process evaluation measures and findings were extracted using the UK Medical Research Council’s process evaluation framework in order to provide overarching descriptions on the implementation, mechanism of change and context of interventions. Univariable meta-regressions were performed to ascertain whether selected study-level covariates moderated the improvement in motor competence outcomes in interventions.

The search identified 60 intervention studies. Only 30 studies (50%) reported process evaluation measures. No studies reported (or employed) theoretical frameworks to guide process evaluation. Process evaluation measures relating to implementation were most commonly reported, with the most prevalent aspect being fidelity. This was followed by reporting on measures relating to mechanism of change and context of the intervention. Meta-analysis results suggested intervention duration, dose, inclusion of process evaluation aim, provision of lesson plans, sample size and sex as potential moderators.

Reporting of process evaluation measures may help build our understanding of the optimal characteristics of motor competence interventions. However, process evaluation is under-used and/or under-reported. This review serves as a call for more process evaluations and better reporting in motor competence interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2547-2569
Number of pages23
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number12
Early online date2 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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