Fitness testing has always been a contentious issue in Physical Education (PE). The recent study by Kelly L. Simonton, Kevin Mercier & Alex C. Garn (2019): Do fitness test performances predict students’ attitudes and emotions toward physical education?, in Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, raises some interesting areas of debate around the future of fitness testing in the PE curriculum.
The crux of the study suggests that fitness tests are currently only being used to fill out the curriculum and the data is not being used to develop fitness education as a whole or implement individual fitness plans for students. If fitness testing used this data correctly, it could help alleviate or address physical incompetency in society. To quote Kelvin Giles, he states that,
“We are all aware of the ever growing problem of obesity and the general lack of fitness of our younger generations. The reduction of regular exercise programs previously seen in physical education classes and general play activities in our primary and secondary schools, coupled with the ‘internet’ phenomena, has accelerated this decline in fitness and movement education.”Kelvin Giles 2001, p16
From a pedagogy point of view, I personally think that we should get rid of the standard multi-stage fitness test or strength tests. I don’t believe they serve a purpose, unless you are wanting to improve specific physical qualities, and even then, in such young people we shouldn’t be focusing on trying to improve physical qualities in a stand alone manner, but develop the student’s physical ability as a whole. We should be striving to monitor movement competencies more efficiently and ensure that younger generations are competent in the basic movements (which I have mentioned in previous posts).
When it comes to actually assessing or testing movement competencies, over time we can better track where students should be in their movement journey. This can help improve self-motivation and better engagement in PE. It’s simple – you either can or can’t do something when it comes to your “competency” but given the right support students will be able to develop and improve on the required skills or movements over time. In my view, this model also enables both students and staff to understand exactly which areas need to be worked on. It avoids peer group comparisons as there is now no need to share fitness “scores” or “tests”. But overall, better competency leads to better movement across the board, which is key to alleviating a lot of the issues mentioned above by Kelvin Giles.
So where do we go from here?
If we move PE assessment from “tests” to “competencies” then we are assessing movement overtime and can use this data to better inform and educate our students on where they are and where they should be according to their age. In my opinion “traditional” fitness tests are underpinned by being competent in a movement, so why don’t we start there first?
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