The Role of Fitness Testing in Physical Education

New Zealand Physical Educator, May 2007 | Go to article overview

The Role of Fitness Testing in Physical Education


PENZ asked three educators, one each from tertiary, secondary and primary education, to share their opinions on the role of fitness testing within physical education.

"Watcha this Miss"

"Run you lazy dogs! You can do better! Stop dawdling! This is a run not a walk!" A young male physical education teacher shouted at his Year 9 class as they ran around the athletics track. A 12 minute run was the task. 'Fitness and athletics' headed the teacher's lesson plan. Slick organisation meant that students paired by birthday months and supplied with a stopwatch, results sheet and pencil, timed each other and recorded the distance run by their partner in 12 minutes. One-minute intervals separated each student. "This is not a race but a fitness assessment," explained the teacher as the class performed some obligatory stretches, star jumps and press ups before the run. The lesson ran smoothly and the students ran slowly. A laptop computer enabled the class results to be recorded and averaged before the period ended. "Hey, according to these results you lot are really unfit," said the teacher as he displayed a graph of the class results. "I'm sure you can do better so I'll tell you what, we will repeat this test next lesson." The class groaned.

Yes, I've seen many versions of this lesson. Aerobic fitness tests to assess and motivate students. Show them how active they need to be for optimal health; make them realise that unless they work hard and sweat they will not be healthy. Is this is what Year 9 physical education should be about? Is it our job as physical educators to run kids ragged, to bore or stress them with mindless running all in the name of their future health?

"Watcha this Miss" the skinny kid with the dreads yelled as he spun, leapt and backflipped to the rhythm of pounding rap. For a moment the whole class stilled then with shouts of "Way to go bra'," and high fives in groups of two or three they returned to the serious task of perfecting their own break-dance routines. The teacher smiled at the skinny kid who tried to hide his delight by shrugging and tossing his dreads. With much chatter, laughter and relentless rap the lesson continued, the teacher helping some groups perfect their steps, watching and commenting to other groups or interacting with individual students. The bell rang. The music stopped. The students groaned.

I've only seen one lesson like this. Young men, shining with sweat, moving to the music with intensity and pleasure, repeating movements over and over again, modifying routines, falling and colliding acknowledging one another's successes and failures. Isn't this what Year 9 physical education should be about? Isn't it our job as physical educators to enable youngsters to 'play their bodies' and enjoy physical activity by cultivating individual and group physical competency that expresses our humanity?

Dr Bruce Ross

Principal Lecturer Health and Physical Education

Faculty of Education, University of Auckland

Not another "Beeping" Test!

Regular "fitness" sessions are a reality in many primary schools. Many teachers perceive fitness as an important part of the Physical Education programme, with some teachers placing importance on fitness testing.

At primary level, two considerations are necessary before we consider the undertaking of formalised fitness testing.

* What is our core role as primary teachers of physical education?

* What is the purpose of assessment?

Both of these considerations can be met by referring to two well-researched and formulated guiding documents - the New Zealand Curriculum Draft 2006 and the National Assessment Strategy.

The purpose of the curriculum project was to ensure that we now have a national curriculum which will "develop the competencies our students will need for further study, work and lifelong learning", and that key competencies are "the capabilities people need in order to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities. …

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