Unpacking the ‘black box’
: Implementation evaluation of interventions to improve motor skill competence in children and adolescents.

  • Jiani Ma

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Despite the irrefutable evidence of the health benefits of adequate physical activity, children and adolescents worldwide are not sufficiently active. Motor skill competence (MC) has been suggested as integral to individuals being able to competently participate in physical activity. However, levels of MC in children and adolescents are low globally. This is despite the preponderance of effective interventions and initiatives promoting MC in schools (e.g., Physical Education), thus highlighting a potential gap between effective MC interventions and sustained routine practice that benefits the wider population (e.g., integration into teaching practice). The process of integrating effective interventions into practice is defined as implementation. To improve the implementation of MC interventions, and thus their translatability into practice, factors that influence the implementation process need greater focus. Yet, implementation research in MC interventions is underdeveloped and limited. This PhD therefore aimed to improve the understanding of the process(es), factors, and strategies relevant to the implementation of MC interventions into routine practice and provide suggestions regarding implementation evaluation.

    A systematic review was conducted to investigate how process evaluations (a study that examines the intervention process) have been reported in MC interventions and identify any factors that may impact MC intervention outcomes. Only half of the identified intervention studies (n = 30) reported process evaluation and no studies reported (or employed) theoretical frameworks to guide process evaluation. Common process evaluation measures and potential moderators of MC intervention outcomes were identified in this review, but this was insufficient to fully understand the implementation of MC interventions given process evaluation is underused. Subsequently, a systems science approach, namely Collective Intelligence (CI), was employed in three stakeholder consultations in the UK and Ireland to identify barriers to the implementation and sustainability of school-based MC interventions and their interrelationships, as well as design solutions to the barriers. Critical barriers were identified relating to policy, physical education curriculum, and stakeholders’ knowledge and appreciation. A roadmap of actions was created to inform decisions when supporting implementation of MC interventions. The synthesised findings from the review and CI were then used to develop strategies intended to improve the implementation of a specific MC intervention—Project FLAME, followed by a mixed methods evaluation to understand the influences of the strategies on the implementation of the intervention. Findings highlighted that the intervention could be effectively integrated into routine practice, provided adaptations specific to teachers’ practice and students’ needs are made.

    This PhD research presents the first systematic inquiry into the implementation evaluation of MC interventions. Findings highlighted the complex and context-specific influences on the implementation and sustainability of interventions. The thesis considers the implications for researchers regarding improving evaluation practice, as well as strategies to improve the implementation of MC interventions into practice.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    • Deakin University
    SupervisorMichael Duncan (Supervisor), Lisa Barnett (Supervisor), Emma Eyre (Supervisor) & Natalie Lander (Supervisor)

    Cite this