Fitness Testing and Physical Education

Fitness testing (FT) in physical education is a controversial topic. Advantages of  fitness testing in PE is that the tests are generally safe to implement, involve minimal equipment, and they are easy to administer. When FT's are used as stimulus material for education about movement, such as components of fitness and physiological responses to different types of activity, they have the potential to contribute to the developmet of student understanding about the value of movement.

The question is whether the potential advantages outweigh the disadvantages. These disadvantages include:

  • The appropriateness of some fitness tests for use with children and youth, because they were developed for adults, is questionable;
  • Children's responses to physical activity are different to adults;
  • 'Field tests' are often imprecise measures, therefore, the test result validity and reliability is questionable;
  • Too many factors (other than the individual child's actual fitness) can influence a child or youth's performance in a fitness test - such as motivation, genetics, rate of maturation, conditions at the time of the test; 
  • Fitness tests generally only motivate those likely to do well to 'try hard' to do well;
  • Many students find FT demotivating and not encouraging of future physical activity;
  • Fitness test scores are not necessarily good indicators of children's physical activity levels; and
  • Genetics has the biggest effect on the potential for test results.
These points that lead to fitness tests in PE results having questionable validity and reliability as accurate measures of student fitness can themselves become education about movement in the hands of a pedagogically astute physical educator.

If you are interested in understanding this complicated area of physical education curriculum debate, I recommend the research and writing of Lorraine Cale and Jo Harris for further reading.

Jo Harris will be at the ACHPER International Conference January 14-15, 2019.  Find out more about the conference and register from here


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