Using Technology to Understand Students’ Optimal Challenges and Promote Intrinsic Motivation in Physical Education

Fan Zhang, Jordan Manley, Shannon Mulhearn, Pamela Hodges Kulinna, Heather E. Erwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Youth are inactive in today’s world. Integrating autonomy, competence, and relatedness into Physical Education objectives to provide optimally challenging tasks for students may be an effective approach to making them love physical activity. Optimal challenge, or the challenge level of the task matches the student’s competence, can provide them with the greatest sense of competence, satisfaction, and/or pleasure. It presents one adaptive intrinsic goal of motivation in Self-Determination Theory. Participation in optimally challenging situations can give students a sense of mastery, enhance their conceptions of competence, and lead to enjoyment, thus, increasing intrinsic motivation. The purpose of this article is to encourage physical educators to introduce opportunities for students to experience optimal challenges and, thereby, offer students the chance to feel the rewards of being self-regulated and intrinsically motivated. This article shares one tool, miMove, that many teachers have used successfully throughout virtual teaching to engage students in more physical activity. Physical educators could use this mobile APP to better understand how students perceive their own learning and integrate student choice and learner-centered pedagogical strategies. Consequently, it offers students opportunities to explore their own understanding of content, introduces autonomy, and stimulates students’ ability to connect to content authentically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-34
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 SHAPE America.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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