Living Well: Creating a Long-Term Framework for Sport & Physical Literacy Development – Part Two

In Part One of this blog series I shared how the concept of Physical Literacy shaped our curriculum development process at Meadowridge School, and then, how we adapted the Canadian Sport for Life Long-Term Athlete Development model to shape its implementation. Our end goal as a PHE Department was to design a Physical & Health Education curriculum that enabled students to embody our school mission. In this second part I will share with you the next stage of our curriculum review and design project, identifying the sub-domains which would align with each of the physical literacy domains, ensuring students were being presented with learning experiences that would help them develop their physical literacy in a holistic way. 

The definition of physical literacy adopted by our department, inspired by the Consensus Statement, included four essential and interconnected elements that aligned with Bloom’s domains of learning (O’Neill & Murphy, 2010):

  • Motivation and Confidence (Affective Domain)
  • Physical Competence (Physical Domain)
  • Knowledge and Understanding (Cognitive Domain) 
  • Engagement in Physical Activities For Life (Behavioural Domain)
                                                                                                       (“Consensus Statement – Sport for Life,” 2016)

Motivation & Confidence

As a PHE Department, we identified Self Awareness, Self Regulation, Confidence, and Values & Attitudes as the affective sub-domains linked to motivation and confidence. The hallmark of physically literate individuals is that they foster a love of physical learning. They seek physical challenges, value physical effort, and persist in the face of physical obstacles. Physical literacy, therefore, seeks to develop an individual’s intrinsic motivation to pursue these values (Dudley, 2015). In her initial research on physical literacy, Margaret Whitehead (2010) acknowledged “motivation as being essential to promote the necessary application and concentration to excel in movement contexts, to maintain ability, make progress possible, develop a positive attitude towards physical activity and take the initiative to participate in physical activity on a regular basis. The development of a positive attitude towards physical activity is suggested to instill physical literacy throughout the life course, enriching one’s life at all ages.”

When considering the design of our Physical & Health Education program, we knew that providing opportunities for students to learn in movement and feel confident in their ability to move was key to motivating them to be more involved in physical activity. Motivation and confidence is often presented as part of the physical literacy engagement cycle wherein the relationships among motor competence, social, affective and motivational processes, and knowledge are viewed as reciprocal and reinforcing. For example, successfully learning a new skill can lead to a sense of competence, which increases confidence to participate with others, which in turn produces positive feeling states such as enjoyment and a sense of fun. As this is fundamentally a learning cycle, we can think of what emerges from this cycle of engagement as embodied knowledge, which itself encourages motivation for further participation (Cairney, Dudley, Kwan, Bulten, Kriellaars, & Cairney, 2019). 

Movement Competency

We believe that by being educated through movement, students will develop physical, or movement, competency. This is a key aim of physical education and it is the acquisition of physical skills that most people associate with the subject. There are a range of fundamental movement skills, which children are capable of acquiring and many physical education programs focus on providing instruction, encouragement, opportunity, and context to develop these skills during the elementary school years and beyond (Hardman, 2011). Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) are defined as basic learned movement patterns that do not occur naturally and are suggested to be foundational for more complex physical and sporting activities. They can be classified into three categories: locomotion (involving locomotion of the body e.g., running, skipping, hopping, galloping), object control (manipulative skills e.g., catching a ball, throwing, kicking, striking and object) and stability skills ( e.g., balancing, landing, weight transfer) (Barnett, et al., 2016). 

When identifying these three areas of movement competency in our curriculum we also included fitness skills in this area of physical literacy development. We believe that increased movement competency may influence fitness levels, as activities that involve FMS also demand high levels of muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness. As children develop their movement competency they may increase their time being physically active and persist with activities that require higher levels of physical fitness (Lubans, Morgan, Cliff, Barnett, & Okely, 2010).

Knowledge & Understanding

The cognitive domain is exhibited by a person’s intellectual abilities. Within physical education, cognitive learning behaviors are characterized by both observable and unobservable skills such as the comprehension of information, the ability to organize ideas and concepts needed to complete a task, and evaluating information and action (Hansen, 2008). In seeking to identify what knowledge and understanding our students would by learning about movement within our Physical & Health Education curriculum we identified the cognitive sub-domains of Content Knowledge, Rules, Reflection, and Tactics & Strategy.

We believe that within our subject area there lies a body of content knowledge and students should have an understanding about how and why skills and concepts are being taught in a certain way, and how this benefits their physical literacy development. Students should know the technical aspects of the skills involved – the strengths and weaknesses of various strategic approaches, training implications for improved performance, values and traditions of sport, and the role it occupies within different cultures (Siedentop, 2002). To be successful learners, our students should be able to follow rules within physical activities. Rules can be defined as the “means to an end, and to achieve the end by other means is not playing the game” (Dudley, 2008). While movement skills can be acquired through practice with little thought or reflection, students will be inadequately acquainted with how their newfound skills could be employed flexibly to benefit their physical literacy development (Thorburn & Macallister, 2013). Reflection is as a set of metacognitive skills and practices, allowing the separation of a new experience from one’s own background and bias in order to view the new experience from a different, often cultural, perspective. Reflection starts with an experience and leads to a changed understanding and/or action. Students who are adept at using reflective thinking strategies generally have greater academic achievement (Education Research Center, Texas A&M University, 2016).

Cognitive ability in Physical & Health Education and an individual’s understanding of rules, tactics, and strategies is an important progression in their physical literacy development beyond mere skill execution, as it requires a conscious interaction with others and the environment in which they occur (Dudley, 2008).

Engagement in Physical Activities

If our curriculum design was to produce physically educated students, we knew there were some important behavioural aspects that we needed to address. In exploring the behavioural domain and what factors would influence engagement, we identified the sub-domains of Conflict Resolution, Cooperation, Collaboration and Safety. Unlike in other school subjects where teachers might select pedagogical strategies that involve student interaction to teach skills such as reading, working with and alongside others is often an implicit part of physical education classes (Barker, Quennerstedt & Annerstedt, 2015). The role of working regularly with peers in teams enhances students’ physical education experience. However while social interaction can positively influence students’ meaningful engagement in physical education, several studies have also demonstrated its negative influence (Beni, Fletcher, & Ní Chróinín, 2017).We believe providing students with opportunities to develop the skills to resolve conflict independently is an important behavioural skill as it has been shown that conflict seldom leads to better motor performance (Barker, et al., 2015).

Knowing that students will be working together, we believed the development of cooperative and collaborative skills would be vital to enable them to successfully engage in meaningful physical activity. Cooperative learning in physical education can be defined as small group instruction and practice that uses positive student interactions as a means of achieving instructional goals (Dyson & Grineski, 2001). Cooperative learning offers an excellent opportunity for positive outcomes across the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains and can teach students responsibility by giving them the power to organize and operate their groups, to give each other feedback, and to collaborate on solutions to their problems (Dyson & Grineski, 2001). The inclusion of the collaboration sub-domain initially caused some disagreement amongst our department members, however, we were able to come to an understanding about the key difference between cooperation and collaboration. We determined that cooperation is more focused on working together to create an end product, while successful collaboration requires participants to share in the process of knowledge creation. In other words, cooperation can be achieved if all participants do their assigned parts separately and bring their results to the table; collaboration, in contrast, implies direct interaction among individuals to produce a product and involves negotiations, discussions, and accommodating others’ perspectives (Kozar, 2010).

We believe that Physical & Health Education promotes an inclusive and safe learning environment that recognizes and respects the diversity of all children and youth, and accommodates individual strengths, needs, and interests (“Fundamental Principle Resources | Ophea Teaching Tools,” 2019). Apart from basic safety rules and regulations observed in the school, gym or playground each physical activity has its own set of safety rules, with which students should familiarize themselves. By focusing our teaching on these sub-domains we believe students will be able to peacefully solve problems and work together with their peers in a safe environment.

Next Steps

Having identified and aligned our sub-domains of physical literacy development, our department set about envisioning how we would go about putting this into practice. In the Part Three of this blog series I will explain our approach to implementing this curriculum and how we linked it to Long-Term Athlete Development principles and our grander goal of aligning with our mission statement of “learning to live well, with other and for others, in a just community.”

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Nathan Horne is a physical educator, currently based in British Columbia, Canada where he works as PHE Department Head at Meadowridge School. Nathan is also the founder of iPhys-Ed.com. Be sure to never miss out on any of iPhys-Ed.com’s future posts by connecting with us via TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram. Nathan can be contacted on Twitter @PENathan.


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