Making Sense of Physical Literacy: Building Confidence

In my previous post, Making Sense of Physical Literacy, I shared my experience of coming to terms with the concept of Physical Literacy and how it serves as the purpose behind my physical education program. Having been on this journey to discover and understand physical literacy and how it can serve as a foundation for my physical education program, for me I worked out that essentially I want my students to:

– Be Confident in their ability to move & be active.

– Be Competent moving in a variety of ways.

– Have the Knowledge & Understanding to be thinking movers and solve problems.

– To Value & Take Responsibility for taking action to move & be active.

In this next blog post describing my journey of inquiry into physical literacy, I will explain how I have tried to develop confidence in my students and their perceptions of their ability to move and be active.

What is confidence?

Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” In other words, confidence comes when children can actually realize that they have learned, practiced, and improved a skill. Research by Albert Bandura suggests that “self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior in people’s everyday lives” and also that  “one’s perception of ability or self-confidence is the central mediating construct of achievement strivings.”
I have found in my experience the best method to help build confidence in your students is to first develop a deeper understanding of their current level of confidence and perceived competence. 

Measuring Confidence

Over the past couple of years, I have been striving to better understand my students’ self-confidence and perceived competence. To do this I have used two main tools to gather information from students. The first is the PlaySelf too, which is part of  The Physical Literacy Assessment for Youth series of physical literacy assessment tools, developed by the Sport for Life Society to determine the level of an individual’s physical literacy. The PlaySelf tool is a questionnaire used by children and youth to assess their own perception of their physical literacy.

The PlaySelf questionnaire is separated into 4 subsections:

  1. Environment – helps assess child’s degree of confidence in different environments (land, water, ice and snow)
  2. Physical Literacy Self Description – helps to identify whether a child has low self-efficacy with respect to physical activity.
  3. Relative Ranking of Literacies – helps to identify how much a child values physical literacy in comparison with literacy and numeracy.
  4. Fitness – helps identify child’s need to be more physically active.

I had students complete this survey at the start and end of the year and collected the data using a Google Sheet. I used some simple conditional formatting to colour the cells based on the responses, for ease of reading and to identify any obvious patterns. By collecting this data I am better able to understand students at an individual level, as well as on a class by class, or grade level basis. Knowing this information helps me to make better decisions as an educator and help support students in areas where they may need support.

The second tool I have used is the Self Perception Profile for Children, developed by Susan Harter. This tool is a 36-item self-reported scale designed to assess children’s perceptions of their competence, or self-concept, in six different domains:

  1. Scholastic Competence – These questions refer specifically to the child’s perceived cognitive competence, as applied to schoolwork. Thus, items make reference to doing well at schoolwork, being able to figure out the answers, finishing one’s schoolwork quickly, etc.
  2. Social Competence – Questions refer to knowing how to make friends, having the skills to get others to like oneself, knowing what to do to have others like or accept you, understanding what it takes to become popular, etc.
  3. Athletic Competence – Athletic competence questions primarily refer to one’s ability to do well at sports, including outdoor games, demonstrating one’s athletic prowess.
  4. Physical Appearance – These questions tap the extent to which one feels one is good looking, happy with one’s looks, body, face, hair, etc.
  5. Behavioral Conduct – This subscale taps the degree to which one likes the way one behaves, does the right thing, acts the way one is supposed to act, and avoids getting into trouble.
  6. Global Self-Worth – Measures a general perception of the self, in contrast to the domain-specific judgments of ability or a sense of adequacy in specific areas of one’s life. Thus, there are no references to specific skills, competencies, etc.

Each question contains one positive and one negative description of a specific skill. Respondents are asked to choose which statement best describes them and then select whether the chosen statement was “Really true for me” or “Sort of true for me”. Domain scores are calculated using the mean of the item scores with higher scores indicating more positive self-concept and self-confidence. I have used the full version as well as modified a version for younger students, again with the aim of collecting data to help make decisions about how to support students.

The video above forms part of our Assessment Strategies & Tools online course. If you are interested in taking this course or learning more click here. The course will assist you in developing strategies and provide you with tools to assess your students along their physical literacy journey.

Confidence to Competence

As mentioned earlier Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” If students can feel confident in their ability to move, be active and participate in physical activity then they are well positioned to experience joy and develop competence in these movements. In the next part of our Making Sense of Physical Literacy blog series, I will share how I have worked with my students to help them develop their competence moving in a variety of ways.

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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