Effective Teaching Practices during Physical Fitness Testing: Want to Take the Dread out of Fitness Testing and Keep Your Class Active during the Process?

By Stewart, Amanda; Elliot, Steven et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Effective Teaching Practices during Physical Fitness Testing: Want to Take the Dread out of Fitness Testing and Keep Your Class Active during the Process?


Stewart, Amanda, Elliot, Steven, Boyce, B. Ann, Block, Martin E., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Participation in fitness tests is among the most common memories many adults hold of physical education class (Hopple & Graham, 1995). While some may have positive experiences from these tests, others "may feel threatened and fear embarrassment of failing to perform well in front of peers" (Pangrazi & Corbin, 1993, p. 19). "There is some evidence to suggest that students who show unfavorable feelings toward physical education also may refrain from indulging in physical activity outside of school" (Silverman & Subramaniam, 1999, p. 99). Consequently, if students have a negative attitude towards fitness testing, they may be less likely to assess their own progress once they graduate. These negative attitudes often promote lifestyle choices that support participation in at-risk behaviors (e.g., lack of physical activity and overeating) and ultimately lead to health problems. The purpose of this article is to provide some ideas to make fitness testing a better experience for all those involved. The article will give general tips for teachers to enhance all fitness testing, specific suggestions for particular tests, and ways to keep a class of 30 busy while one child needs to be tested. Remember, there is no reason to have 29 students waiting in line while one student is tested.

General Guidelines for Fitness Testing

Reward improvement. If awards are used to acknowledge fitness achievement, it is also important to reward progress or effort in other students. Keep in mind that fitness test items such as the mile run and curl-ups are based in part on a student's genetic ability. Therefore, in addition to the achievement awards made each spring, teachers could hand out certificates based on the student's individual progress. To reward an individual's improvement at the elementary level, the teacher could place a gold star on the testing certificate for each test component on which a child improved. Can you imagine how children with limited strength might feel if they see five shiny stars on their physical fitness certificate for improving fitness scores? This motivational technique will also help the more fit and athletic students continue to work on improving their own fitness scores. Those with personal bests could be the ones recognized at school assemblies, rather than those who happen to be a product of a certain genetic heritage or those who happen to grow up in a family setting that stresses fitness.

Link the curriculum to assessments. If teachers require students to take a fitness test, they need to provide the students with an opportunity to improve their test skills during physical education class. The fitness components that are tested (cardiovascular, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition) should be underlying themes incorporated into all of the lessons throughout the school year. In this way, students have the chance to see improvements and, in turn, to become more motivated to improve their fitness levels. This will also enable teachers to see whether students have improved their fitness, which will help them adjust their lesson plans to meet the students' fitness needs. For example, teachers may find that they need to incorporate sit-ups in station work throughout the year.

Incorporate testing into the overall curriculum. Why do physical educators feel the pressure to get through the fitness-testing process in as short a time as possible? There is no reason to start the school year stressed out because a colleague did not finish using the stopwatches that you need to do the mile or 12-minute run.

Make it fun for the students. Test a fitness component and then play an active game or jump back into your unit. Or better yet, condition the students through an activity (e.g., speedball) and then test the students once they have had a chance to build up some cardiovascular endurance. Doing this will reduce the anxiety for those who find fitness testing a difficult procedure.

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