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What is PETALS? 

Physical Education Teacher Autonomy Support Training to Promote Leisure-time Physical Activity in Students

The purpose of the PETALS-trial is to investigate the effectiveness of a theory-based intervention delivered in physical education (PE) to promote lower secondary school students' physical activity (PA) outside of school. The study focuses on the following four areas:

1. Test the effectiveness of a theory-based in-school intervention delivered by PE teachers in promoting lower secondary school students' physical activity participation outside of school.

2. Evaluate how the intervention works in promoting students' out-of-school physical activity participation through effects of intervention on key constructs from trans-contextual model.

3. Outline the development and implementations of a cost-effective, replicable theory-based teacher-training program to train teachers to use autonomy-support teaching techniques in their PE lessons and promote out-of-school physical activity.

4. Evaluate the long-term effectiveness of the intervention in promoting physical activity behaviour through one, three and six-month post-intervention follow-up of behavioural and theory-based outcomes. 

28.8.2020 Motivation and behaviour change - IMPAct/PETALS seminar 14.8.2020

Access code = motivation


A wait-list control design with cluster-randomization by schools was used in the trial. In total, 11 schools, 29 teachers and 502 students participated in the study. The study consisted following phases:

1. Teacher training phase

  • Intervention group (16 teachers from 5 schools)

    • Teachers received a 12-hour training program on how to implement autonomy supportive strategies in regular PE lessons

  • The wait-list control group (13 teachers from 6 schools)

    • Teachers received a 4-hour training program on how to apply a monitoring system for physical functional capacity in children with special needs

2. Implementation phase

  • A 1-month period during which the teachers applied the learnt strategies into their teaching

Pre-trial was collected before the teacher training phase. Post-trial was collected after the implementation phase. Follow-up data was collected at three timepoints after the post-trial collection occasion.

The wait-list control group received the autonomy-support training program after the 1st follow-up data collection round. 


1. Questionnaires for students and teachers containing demographic, psychological and behavioural measures

  • Students

    • Physical activity (PA): ​short-form of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ)

    • Students' perceived autonomy support by their PE teacher 

    • Autonomous motivation, controlled motivation and amotivation toward in school and out-of-school PA

    • Attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioural control and intentions with respect to their future participation in PA

    • Behavioural automacity

    • Grit & self-discipline

    • Perceived parental affection and control from parents

    • Perceived autonomy support by parents and peers towards out-of-school PA

  • Teachers

    • Provision of autonomy support and control​ in the PE lessons

  • Parents or legal guardians (only at baseline)

    • Provision of autonomy support towards out-of-school physical activity

    • Parental affection

    • Behavioural and psychological control

2. Accelerometers

  • Objective measure of physical activity of a subsample of students over a 7-day period​​

3. Recordings of PE teachers' lessons

  • Assessment of the teacher's use of autonomy-supportive behaviours

At pre, post, 2nd and 3rd follow-up data collection occasions the questionnaire data from students and teachers, accelerometer data and audio recordings of the PE lessons were collected. Parental or legal guardian questionnaires as well as the measures of behavioural automacity, grit, self-discipline, parental affection, parental control, parental autonomy and demographic measures from the studens were collected only at baseline. On the 1st follow-up occasion, only questionnaire data from students and teachers was collected.

Timeline of the Intervention

AST=autonomy-support training


You can find the teacher training materials in English and in Finnish here.

You can find the PETALS -symposium presentations given in FEPSAC 2019 (15th Congress of Sport and Exercise Psychology) here

More information:

Polet, J., Hassandra, M., Lintunen, T., Laukkanen, A., Hankonen, N., Hirvensalo, Tammelin, T & Hagger, MS (2019). Using Physical Education to Promote Out-of School Physical Activity in Lower Secondary School Students–A Randomized Controlled Trial Protocol. BMC Public Health,

Taru Lintunen, Juho Polet and Arto Laukkanen. Liikunnanopettajien täydennyskoulutustutkimus osallisuuden ja autonomiaa tukevan opetuksen kehittämiseksi - PETALS. Liito 2/2019

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