High School Physical Education Teachers' Attitudes and Use of Fitness Tests

By Mercier, Kevin; Phillips, Sharon et al. | High School Journal, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

High School Physical Education Teachers' Attitudes and Use of Fitness Tests


Mercier, Kevin, Phillips, Sharon, Silverman, Stephen, High School Journal


Recommendations for using and implementing fitness tests have been extensively researched and teachers' attitudes toward fitness tests are beginning to be studied. Less understood is how high school teachers use fitness tests and the role their attitudes toward fitness tests affect students' attitudes toward physical activity. The purpose of this study was to understand how fitness tests are used in secondary physical education classes and how the attitudes of physical education teachers toward fitness testing relate to their use of fitness tests. High school physical education teachers (N = 149) from 47 school districts completed the Physical Education Teacher Attitudes toward Fitness Tests Scale (PETAFTS), a 16-item survey on their attitudes toward fitness tests, with additional items on how they used fitness tests. Results indicated that teachers often do not implement fitness tests as recommended. Findings suggest that teachers with positive and negative attitudes toward fitness testing vary in their implementation and use of fitness tests. Teachers with more positive attitudes reported more frequently using fitness concepts, and teachers who thought fitness testing was important indicated they were more likely to send fitness test results home.

Keywords: high school, physical education, physical education teachers, teacher attitudes

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The obesity epidemic in America has contributed to an increased focus on nutrition habits and the promotion of a physically active lifestyle. Physical education classes have been touted by state and national government officials as a place to address this epidemic, which has been supported by Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Active Schools (2013) campaign. This campaign recommends that students get 60 minutes of physical activity each day including time spent in physical education classes (Corbin et al., 2014; Society for Health and Physical Education [SHAPE] America 2013). Fitness testing is a component of most high school physical education programs, and has been for more than 100 years (Corbin et al., 2014; Corbin & Pangrazi, 1992; Keating, 2003; Park, 1988; Pate, 1989). Recently mandated fitness testing programs in California, Texas, and New York City, possibly as part of a response to obesity concerns, suggest it is extremely likely that students will continue to participate in fitness testing as part of their physical education experiences (Cooper et al., 2010). When used appropriately, fitness testing can aid in the promotion of lifelong physical activity, a commonly-stated goal of physical education (Silverman, Keating, & Phillips, 2008).

In the United States fitness testing was conducted as early as the 1880s. However, it was the Kraus and Hirschland report (1954), which identified a lack of fitness among American children when compared to European children, that sparked the development of the first national fitness test and the continued fitness testing that occurs in American schools today (Corbin & Pangrazi, 1992; Morrow, Zhu, Meredith, & Spain, 2009). President Eisenhower was "shocked" over the results of this report (Boyle, 1955) and President Kennedy published in Sports Illustrated to discuss fitness testing and the need for strong, fit Americans (Kennedy, 1960, 1962). Initial fitness tests contained items assessing skill-related fitness (agility, balance, coordination, reaction time, power, and speed) and health-related fitness (cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition). Fitness test results were compared to normative data (national averages) as opposed to criterion standards that indicate an appropriate level for health benefits. Fitness tests have evolved to focus on health-related fitness and the use of criterion-referenced standards.

The initial national focus on fitness testing was highlighted by presidential concerns over a comparatively unfit nation, during a time of potential military engagement (Kennedy, 1960, 1962). …

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