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Physical Literacy Enriched School Environments – A pilotstudy

Research project Many children lack the basic skills, knowledge, and physical activity behaviours needed to lead healthy and physically active lifestyles.

The aim with the pilot study is to examine how physical education and fritids teachers’ view and implement physical literacy core characteristics within their teaching today, and to create a basis for further development of how the physical movement culture of elementary schools can be enriched in a physical literacy sense. 

Head of project

Inger Eliasson
Associate professor
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2021-01-01 2022-12-31

Funding

Umeå University, Umeå School of Sport Sciences

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Education

Research area

Pedagogy

Project description

Background

In 2018, the World Health Organization commissioned a Global Action Plan on Physical Activity and advocated physical literacy as a primary objective for creating an active society to reduce the rise in childhood physical inactivity. For the first time, WHO challenged the education sectors worldwide to embrace interventions on the modern and multidimensional concept of PL within their various associations (e.g., schools, after school clubs etc.).

The concept of PL has over the years evolved to not only focus on a person’s physical capacities in movement skill execution, but also on the learning processes to instil an embodiment encompassing the confidence, motivation, and enjoyment to execute physical movement skills (International PL association, [IPLA] 2019). Many children lack the basic skills, knowledge, and physical activity behaviours needed to lead healthy and physically active lifestyles. The Swedish PE curriculum designers seem, to some extent to have been inspired by Whitehead’s work on PL, however loosely translated as physical ability.

Lundvall (2015) argues that the theories behind PL have the potential to meet young generations’ ways of learning and living today, characterised by less dependence on the traditional curriculum. From this perspective, PL provides a powerful lens for examining teaching and learning in relation to physical movement and individual behaviour within primary school environments.

Aim

Specifically, the aim with the pilot study is to examine how PE and fritids teachers’ view and implement PL core characteristics within their teaching today, and to create a basis for further development of how the physical movement culture of elementary schools can be enriched in a PL sense. 

Method

This pilot study will take a qualitative and inductive approach by examining how PE and fritids teachers work through PE classes and fritids after school activities to develop children’s motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding for engagement in physical activity.

 

Implication

Physical inactivity has emerged as a serious health problem across the world (WHO, 2018). In Sweden, a recent study showed that only 50 % of the boys and 29% of the girls in school grade five reached the recommendation of 60 minutes physical activity per day (Nyberg, 2017). Given the increased physical inactivity, getting Sweden moving is critical to the overall physical and mental health of our population and bolder action is urgently required.

 

When focussing on PL it is not only the physical activity itself that requires attention; learning processes related to movement competence, the feelings of being able to move as well as motivation to move also plays an important role for children to engage in a physically active life. This requires development of new perspectives and understanding on embodied learning, teaching and engagement which the pilot will contribute with by start to examine the potential of physical literacy.

 

Whilst the Swedish Sport Confederation acknowledge the importance of PL movement cultures, now there is very little culturally driven research in Sweden on PL. Knowing how teachers and children understand and implement PL within their school environments as well as the barriers and challenges they experience will help us to formulate appropriate interventions and education for teachers in the future. We cannot solely rely on PL research and the setup of PL programs from other countries due to significant differences within the Swedish educational and sport movement systems.