Track data to build buy-in and sustainability

A story from Indiana


“[Classroom physical activity] data can be used to identify ways to support teachers, celebrate schools, encourage new partnerships, and leverage more funding.”

Jessica Yoder, Childhood Obesity Program Coordinator
Indiana Department of Health

We spoke with Ms. Yoder to learn how schools and districts in Indiana track classroom physical activity and use that data to build support for classroom physical activity across the state.

Key Takeaways

Identify a simple system to collect data. Ms. Yoder worked with schools across the state to identify simple ways to collect classroom physical activity data, from online tracking systems to quick check-ins with wellness champions. The following are examples of successful strategies employed in Indiana:

  • Access to an online platform: In 2017, Indiana’s Department of Health identified funds to enroll 11 schools from seven school districts around the state in GoNoodle Plus, which automatically tracks the number of program usage minutes by teacher. School-level aggregate data were automatically synthesized into monthly email reports to document overall trends and progress.
  • Use of free online survey tools: Following the GoNoodle Plus pilot, principals and teachers provided self-reported data through SurveyMonkey on topics including their perceptions of the importance of classroom physical activity pre- and post-pilot, their experience rolling out GoNoodle Plus, the receptivity of classroom teachers and/or students, the observed impacts of classroom physical activity, and their commitment to sustaining classroom physical activity practices.
  • Pen and paper tracking to increase student engagement: For the past five years, one Indiana school has implemented a schoolwide pedometer program, where each classroom teacher and one student representative wear a pedometer to track classroom physical activity steps. In the morning and at the end of the day, a school-wide announcement helps each classroom remember to record the number of steps on a clipboard outside of the classroom.
  • Phone calls with school wellness champions (typically an administrator): According to Ms. Yoder, “I try to stay away from emails and host standing conference calls instead. Teachers aren’t always in front of a computer; it’s not a priority. Scheduling calls and having a quick conversation can be an efficient way [to track qualitative and quantitative data].”

Use data for encouragement, technical assistance, and celebration, not accountability. Ms. Yoder said that classroom physical activity data was never intended to hold individual teachers accountable or assess performance. Rather, she used the data to work with wellness coordinators to celebrate successes, provide technical assistance, and work through barriers.

“I would ask if there is anything I can do to help, follow-up with them, and nudge them. For the most part, I used the data to celebrate on monthly conference calls to call out and recognize schools.”

Share data to build new partnerships and buy-in. Indiana has shared classroom physical activity data and used it as a promotional tool to build buy-in.  For example, in Fayette County School District, the wellness coordinator presented to the School Board a comparison of the average minutes of classroom physical activity in the district’s GoNoodle Plus pilot school with minutes from their state overall to demonstrate the value of classroom physical activity.

See the presentation here:

  • GoNoodle pilot results: Minute marker 21:07-21:50
  • Incorporating physical activity into the school board meeting: Minute marker 23:40-25:18
Indiana’s experience tracking, analyzing, and sharing classroom physical activity data increased buy-in of and capacity for classroom physical activity. Over the course of the year, the perception of classroom-based physical activity’s importance in daily procedures increased on average among both teachers and principals. Principals and teachers documented the observed benefits of classroom physical activity. One principal said, “When the body is moving, so is the mind. We see increases in academic performance.” One teacher said, “The overall culture [of the classroom] seemed to improve and students felt more comfortable being themselves. It was a great way to engage all the students.”