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ERIC Number: ED563086
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Does Playworks Work? Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial
James-Burdumy, Susanne; Bleeker, Martha; Beyler, Nicholas; London, Rebecca A.; Westrich, Lisa; Stokes-Guinan, Katie; Castrechini, Sebastian
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness
Most school principals believe recess has a positive impact on the development of students' social skills and academic achievement. Research also suggests that physical activity and play during recess may be linked to improvements in both academic and prosocial behaviors (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). Recess, however, has been reduced or eliminated in up to 40 percent of school districts across the country, and these declines have disproportionately affected low-income minority students in urban areas. In schools where recess is still offered, recess periods often lack the structure needed to support physical activity and positive social development, often leading to increased discipline-related problems. The Playworks program--which aims to address these issues--places full-time coaches in low-income schools to provide opportunities for organized play during recess and throughout the school day. Activities are designed to engage students in physical activity, improve quality of play, foster social skills related to cooperation and conflict resolution, improve students' ability to focus on class work, decrease behavioral problems, and improve school climate. This study both rigorously assesses the impacts of the Playworks program on student and school outcomes, and documents the program's implementation. The study included 25 low-income urban schools from 5 cities. All of the schools were interested in implementing the Playworks program. Data were collected from 1,982 students, 247 teachers, 25 principals, and 14 Playworks coaches in spring 2011 to document the implementation of Playworks and to assess the impact of the program. Data collection activities included administration of student and teacher surveys, recess observations, interviews with principals, collection of student physical activity data, and collection of administrative records from schools. Data collection activities focused on six outcome domains: (1) school climate; (2) conflict resolution and aggression; (3) learning and academic performance; (4) recess experience; (5) youth development; and (6) student behavior. The study team used regression models to estimate the impact of Playworks on outcomes. The following significant, positive impacts of Playworks were found: (1) There was a positive impact of Playworks on teachers' perceptions of students' safety and the extent to which teachers reported students felt included during recess; (2) Teachers in treatment schools reported less bullying and exclusionary behavior during recess than teachers in control schools; (3) Teachers in treatment schools were less likely to report difficulties in transitioning to classroom learning activities after recess and reported significantly less time to transition from recess to learning activities than teachers in control schools. Treatment students were also more likely than control students to report better behavior and attention in class after sports, games, and play; and (4) Treatment teachers reported significantly better student behavior at recess and readiness for class than control teachers, and were also more likely to report that their students enjoyed adult-organized recess activities. The following key implementation findings were observed: (1) Strong implementation occurred in seven of 14 treatment schools, and moderate implementation occurred in another five schools. Two schools had weak implementation; (2) Playworks implementation was stronger in schools that had recess in the past and when coaches were experienced with the program; and (3) Most teachers, students, and principals had positive perceptions of the Playworks program.
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208. Tel: 202-495-0920; Fax: 202-640-4401; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Grade 5; Intermediate Grades; Middle Schools; Elementary Education; Grade 6
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE)