An exploratory study into the effects of development movement exercises on primary school children's academic performance

  • Esther Louise Curley

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research


    Previous research has hypothesised that through the repetition of developmental movements cognitive and academic performance may be improved. However, the research on this topic is equivocal and further scrutiny of the role that movement training may play in academic achievement is warranted. Therefore, the purpose of this quasi-experimental, controlled, cross-over design study was to evaluate the efficacy of a school based movement intervention called ‘Fit to Read’ on improving the reading and mathematical performance of Year three primary school children (n = 31).

    The study was conducted in two parts. Study one relates to results collected pre study cross-over, and study two relates to results collected post cross-over. For study one, children were randomly allocated to an experimental group (n = 15) to participate in a nine week, school based movement intervention (five days/week, 20mins per day), or a control group (n = 16) in order to continue with their daily routine. The ‘Fit to Read’ programme required participants to replicate developmental movement patterns usually observed in the first year of an infant’s life. The ‘Fit to Read’ programme consisted of three, three-week cycles. The first cycle targeted the tonic labyrinthine reflex, the second cycle targeted the asymmetrical tonic reflex, and the third targeted the symmetrical tonic neck reflex.

    The reading and mathematical ability of all children (n = 31) was measured by means of a standardised group administered reading comprehension test (The Group Reading Test II, 6-14, NFER, Nelson, 2005) and a standardised mathematical test (Progress in Maths, NFER, Nelson, 2004), prior to the onset of the intervention, post-intervention and two weeks post-intervention. BMI was calculated for all participants (n = 31) along with habitual physical activity (HPA) via piezoelectric pedometers and included as covariates, given reports of their potential influence on academic and cognitive performance.

    For study one, a main effect for time was found in relation to standardised reading scores, with deterioration exhibited in both the control and experimental groups’ performance. The mean standardised reading scores measured post-intervention were significantly lower than 9 baseline scores. In terms of mathematical achievement, a significant time by gender by group interaction, and significant gender by group interaction was reported. Participation in the ‘Fit to Read’ programme appeared to be detrimental to the boys’ (n = 8) mathematical progress, whilst moderate improvements were reported for the girls (n =7).

    For study two, statistical analysis showed that participation in either the control (n = 15) or the experimental (n = 16) group did not differ significantly in terms of their impact on standardised reading scores. However, a significant main effect for gender was found for reading age, with the girls reported to exhibit gains six times greater than the boys. By two weeks post-intervention, these gains were not sustained as declines in reading age were reported for both the boys and girls. A significant main effect was found for both the boys’ and girls’ control group, yet the girl controls exhibited a more notable overall increase of approximately nine months in reading age. For study two, significant mathematical improvements were confined to the girls in the control group, with scores collected at two weeks post-intervention significantly higher than the preceding two assessments.

    The findings show that the developmental movement intervention was not effective in improving reading and mathematical performance. Explanations for these results are presented, including a reflection of student disengagement, negative self-fulfilling prophecy and self-handicapping behaviours, taking into account the ethnically diverse and low socioeconomic status of the population under study.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SponsorsCoventry City Council
    SupervisorMichael Duncan (Supervisor)

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