Schools are recognised as key health settings and their importance in promoting knowledge of physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviours via physical education and physical activity programs is well documented [1
]. Despite this recognition, there are a lack of effective intervention strategies to promote physical activity in school children; therefore the development of effective physical activity interventions in schools continues to be a priority [3
]. Nevertheless, promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviours among children and adolescents is a complex challenge [4
], especially in a school context with many competing educational outcomes and institutional constraints.
School-based interventions are appropriate in many ways due to the level of continuous, intensive contact with students during their developmental years [5
]. However, previously reported difficulties with implementing a range of interventions in schools have included the; lack of teacher participation, lack of program readiness, absence of program advocates, inadequacy of funding, reduction in infrastructure, poor association between the program's key features and organization routines, limited teacher training and support, insufficient amount of program materials, and inconsistent staffing [6
]. Ultimately, effective interventions require the combination of careful planning and the engagement of the whole school community.
Notwithstanding the difficulties associated with implementing school-based interventions, the constant drive for schools and teachers to meet students' needs necessitates the adaptation of existing content as well as the successful implementation of new initiatives and interventions. Teachers are aware of their own difficulties facilitating engaging programs, especially in the area of physical activity and physical education [9
]. Subsequently, teachers need to consider a range of teaching strategies, styles and methods for student engagement to ensure learning outcomes for all students.
One such strategy which involves peer assisted learning, encourages development across all learning domains. Peer assisted learning, teaching, tutoring or mentoring [10
] are frequently interchanged terms. The commonality is that each strategy is underpinned by a learning process whereby students learn from and with others; this can be with students of the same-age or from those who are older (cross-age). Peer assisted learning in physical education and physical activity may overcome some aspects that impede student learning, enjoyment and participation by providing opportunities for increased levels of feedback, social learning and less direct instruction from the teacher [11
]. This is particularly important for all adolescents, but especially girls who experience greater age-related declines in physical activity levels [12
] and may not be attracted to the sometimes competitive, rigorous and the potentially uncomfortable nature of physical education [13
Peer assisted learning appears to be an excellent vehicle for participant improvements to health/nutrition outcomes [14
], physical activity participation including increasing on task behaviours [16
], skill development [20
], and self efficacy [23
]. More specifically, a recent study of peer assisted learning in a physical activity leaders (PAL) program which used resistance training in adolescent boys reported significant reductions of several physiological outcomes [25
], supporting previous findings from a lunchtime peer led activity program which also reported encouraging physiological changes in adolescents [26
If peer assisted learning is conducted within a cross-age or same-age context then leadership opportunities are also provided for students. Whilst undertaking the role of 'peer tutor' or 'peer leader', the benefits reported have included; enhanced understanding of concepts, increased self determination, improved reorganization, clarification and knowledge building skills [27
]. These leadership qualities are not exclusive to physical activity contexts. Promising peer assisted learning programs in remedial settings and other curriculum areas [28
] highlight that programs outside those which are traditionally teacher-led may be successful in influencing student behaviour.
The RE-AIM health promotion evaluation framework [32
] has been used to evaluate the multi-faceted components of interventions. The framework has previously been used in studies in primary school physical activity interventions [4
] and community sport contexts [34
]. The benefits of using the RE-AIM health promotion evaluation framework [32
] are that it enables complex settings based interventions, such as those in school settings, to be comprehensively evaluated.
In summary, considering the potential benefits for students associated with peer assisted learning such as leadership development, increases in psychosocial and physiological outcomes in addition to increasing physical activity participation, an intervention in schools that provides opportunities to develop these components and can also engage girls should be considered. In an attempt to address the afore-mentioned parameters: the GLAMA (Girls! Lead! Achieve! Mentor! Activate!) peer leadership and physical activity intervention was developed. This paper aims to describe the process evaluation of the GLAMA pilot project and specifically focus on the evaluation of the intervention constructs including the;
i) Effectiveness of leadership training and leader preparedness
ii) Activity suitability and participation
iii) Barriers to implementation and solutions to overcome these to enable successful application in a wider school population.