Bridging the Gap - Applying Measurement and Evaluation Concepts to Fitness Testing in Schools

Article excerpt

The school-based fitness testing experience described in this article brings abstract terms such as objectivity, reliability, and validity to life, and could be extended to other areas covered in M&E classes.

Almost all university physical education programs offer at least one course in measurement and evaluation (M&E) at the undergraduate level. A recent survey revealed that M&E courses tend to include both theoretical and practical content (Safrit, Zhu, & Stiegelmeier, 1990). At the theoretical level statistics, measurement concepts, and test administration are emphasized, as well as the selection and use of tests. Practical experiences which allow students to apply some of the concepts learned in lectures are sometimes provided by the inclusion of laboratories in the university classroom (Safrit, 1990). Although a M&E course is generally required of all majors, the informational content has been criticized for being irrelevant and unrelated to practice (King, 1990; McCormick, 1988). This may be because what is taught in M&E classes does not always transfer to the more complex and uncertain context of a gymnasium full of children (Veal, 1990).

School-based Fitness Testing

One way to bridge this gap is to provide students with a school-based experience of testing children's fitness levels. Undergraduate kinesiology (physical education) majors at the University of Illinois at Chicago are given the opportunity to help collect fitness data for a three-year longitudinal study of the influence of physical fitness development on measures of self-esteem, self-efficacy, and academic achievement among inner-city elementary school children. Chicago was selected as one of four sites for a project directed by Dr. Wynn Updyke at Indiana University and funded by the Chrysler Corporation Fund. Approximately 500 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students at three schools in Chicago will be followed for three years and tested twice each year for physical fitness, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.

Incorporating Practical Experience Into the M&E Class

As local project coordinator of the study in Chicago, I am responsible for organizing and administering both the physical and paper-and-pencil testing, which takes place in the fall and spring of each year. Students enrolled in the university M&E class assist with the administration of the following fitness tests: pull-ups, height and weight, one-minute timed sit-ups, triceps and calf skinfold measurements, a six-minute distance run, glide presses, and glide pull-ups. (The last two items are performed on an inclined board.) Furthermore, to use the experience as credit towards 30 percent of their grade, the undergraduate students complete four additional requirements: First, the students must attend a one-hour orientation at one of the schools to become familiar with the school facilities and learn proper techniques for administering each of the fitness tests. During the orientation, students practice administering each test item using each other as subjects.

The second requirement is to assist with the fitness testing in the three elementary schools. For three consecutive weeks the university students are assigned in small groups to two consecutive physical education periods. During each 40-minute period they test a class of 30 fourth, fifth, or sixth graders. Each class is divided into three groups which rotate through the stations (e.g., on week 1 there are three stations: pull-ups, glide presses, and height and weight). The university students are assigned in teams to one station and test each child at that station during the period. Conducting the fitness testing during physical education periods over three consecutive weeks means that the university students test the same classes each week. This arrangement helps the school students and the university testers feel comfortable with each other, a factor which not only enhances the atmosphere of the testing sessions but also makes the environment less threatening. …