MEASURING PHYSICAL LITERACY

It’s hard to manage what one cannot measure. Recognizing as much, SHAPE America, the association that represents physical educators, has created a resource for its sector: the National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education, a guiding document to help PE teachers understand competencies that students should exhibit at each grade level. We need to take the next step, as other countries have, to develop robust tools to measure whether those competencies have been achieved. With information about strengths and weaknesses in hand, parents/guardians, teachers, coaches, and others will be able to provide help youth become physically literate. 

In measuring individuals, one option is to adapt Canada’s seminal guide, Developing Physical Literacy: A Guide for Parents of Children Ages 0-12, and its companion tools, the Physical Literacy Assessment for Youth (PLAY) and Physical Literacy Observation Tool (PLOT).[78] The basic version of the PLAY tool is comprised of five groupings of tasks that cover the child’s physical abilities (running, locomotor, object control-upper body, object control-lower body, and balance/stability/ body control); with each task, the child gets graded on a four-point rubric (initial, emerging, competent, and proficient). At the advice of the Canadian leaders responsible for the document, the revised American version should include a way to also assess the social environment of the activities, how much fun youth are having, and the progress of youth with disabilities.

Any test needs competent assessors. Academics, health professionals, educators, coaches, and other individuals who work with youth should be trained in how to measure the physical literacy of program participants, patients, and students. Leaders should also be able to assess the progress youth make throughout their engagement in each program. In addition, a more basic assessment should be created for parents who are not trained in PL principles, but who can use the tool to grow and sharpen their awareness of their child’s fundamental movement skills.

Finally, tools should be developed to assess the physical literacy skills taught through various sports and other activities. By developing ways to measure PL across activities and in individuals, consumer demand for programs that prioritize PL will grow, encouraging cross-sector investment.

ACTION STEPS

• CREATE EASY-TO-USE TOOLKITS that allow parents/guardians, teachers, coaches, health professionals, mentors, and others to measure kids’ baseline PL levels and to track progress. Train youth development professionals and academics in how to measure PL. Have intervention steps available for post-assessment follow ups.

• INCLUDE PL IN THE ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORD and develop a system that allows for easy, anonymous aggregation of PL data, with a way to indicate demographics (gender, race, socioeconomic status, ability, zip code, etc.).

• STUDY THE EFFECTS OF PL PROGRAMS on underserved communities, specifically, and use this data to improve offerings.