International approaches to the definition, philosophical tenets, and core elements of physical literacy: A scoping review

Abstract

This paper addresses the inadequate understanding of the concept of physical literacy (PL), often originating from complex terminology and philosophical language used in the current literature, that discourages non-native English-speaking professionals from engaging deeper into the subject. Specifically, this scoping review seeks to identify international approaches to the definition, philosophical tenets, and core elements of PL. Multi-search databases, seminal works/reports/books, and websites were sourced and analysed. While most analysed definitions were influenced by Whiteheadian interpretations of PL, many divergences exist in the literature concerning the holistic and lifelong journey conceptions of PL. The three philosophical tenets proposed by Whitehead were found in a minority of works. More contemporary versions of PL were related to physical, psychological, cognitive, and social learning. Notions of communication and a lifelong journey also permeate some literature. Considering the plethora of recent literature on PL, we have to simplify current knowledge and terminology, making it useful to those who perform direct education and experimental research in the fields of education, sport, and public health.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Australian Sports Commision (2018). Draft Australian physical literacy standard: Explaining the standard. https://research-management.mq.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/83466646/72163645.pdf.

  2. Australian Sports Commission (2017). Physical literacy: Informing a definition and standard for Australia. https://research-management.mq.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/83466511/72163431.pdf.

  3. Biggs, J., & Collis, K. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy. New York, NY: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cairney, J., Dudley, D., Kwan, M., Bulten, R., & Kriellaars, D. (2019a). Physical literacy, physical activity and health: Toward an evidence-informed conceptual model. Sports Medicine, 49(3), 371–383. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01063-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Cairney, J., Kiez, T., Roetert, E. P., & Kriellaars, D. (2019b). A 20th-century narrative on the origins of the physical literacy construct. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 38(2), 79–83. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.2018-0072.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Corbin, C. B. (2016). Implications of physical literacy for research and practice: A commentary. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 87(1), 14–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2016.1124722.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. CS4L/Sport for Life [Canada Sport for Life] (2015). Canada’s physical literacy consensus statement. http://sportforlife.ca/physical-literacy/consensus-statement/.

  8. CS4L/Sport for Life [Canada Sport for Life] (2019). Sport for Life website. https://sportforlife.ca/physical-literacy/.

  9. Dudley, D. (2015). A conceptual model of observed physical literacy. The Physical Educator, 72(5), 236–260. https://doi.org/10.18666/TPE-2015-V72-I5-6020.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Dudley, D., Cairney, J., Wainwright, N., Kriellaars, D., & Mitchell, D. (2017). Critical considerations for physical literacy policy in public health, recreation, sport, and education agencies. Quest, 69(4), 436–452. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2016.1268967.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Dudley, D., Goodyear, V., & Baxter, D. (2016). Quality and health-optimizing physical education: Using assessment at the health and education nexus. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 35(4), 324–336. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.2016-0075.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Durden-Myers, E. (2018). Physical literacy. A guide for educators. Radstock: Scholarly.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Durden-Myers, E., & Whitehead, M. (2018). Operationalizing physical literacy. Special issue editorial. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 37(3), 234–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Durden-Myers, E., Whitehead, M., & Pot, N. (2018). Physical literacy and human flourishing. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 37(3), 308–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Edwards, L., Bryant, A., Keegan, R., Morgan, K., Cooper, S., & Jones, A. (2017). “Measuring” physical literacy and related constructs: A systematic review of empirical findings. Sports Medicine, 48(3), 659–682. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0817-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Edwards, L., Bryant, A., Keegan, R., Morgan, K., & Jones, A. (2018). Definitions, foundations, and associations of physical literacy: A systematic review. Sports Medicine, 47(1), 113–126. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0560-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Francis, C. E., Longmuir, P. E., Boyer, C., Andersen, L. B., Barnes, J. D., Boiarskaia, E., et al. (2016). The Canadian assessment of physical literacy: Development of a model of children’s capacity for a healthy, active lifestyle through a Delphi process. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13(2), 214–222. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2014-0597.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Giblin, S., Collins, D., & Button, C. (2014). Physical literacy: Importance, assessment, and future directions. Sports Medicine, 44(9), 1177–1184. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0205-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. HALO [Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group] (2019). Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy. https://www.capl-eclp.ca.

  20. IPLA [International Physical Literacy Association] (2017). IPLA definition. https://www.physical-literacy.org.uk/.

  21. Jurbala, P. (2015). What is physical literacy, really? Quest, 67(4), 367–383. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2015.1084341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Longmuir, P. E., & Tremblay, M. S. (2016). Top 10 research questions related to physical literacy. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 87(1), 28–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Lundvall, S. (2015). Physical literacy in the field of physical education—A challenge and a possibility. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(2), 113–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Mandigo, J., Francis, N., Lodewyk, K., & Lopez, R. (2009). Physical literacy for educators. Physical and Health Education Journal, 75(3), 27–30.

    Google Scholar 

  25. PHE [Physical and Health Education, Canada] (2019). Physical literacy. https://phecanada.ca/activate/physical-literacy.

  26. Pot, N., Whitehead, M. E., & Durden-Myers, E. J. (2018). Physical literacy from philosophy to practice. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 37(3), 246–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Robinson, D. B., & Randall, L. (2017). Marking physical literacy or missing the mark on physical literacy? A conceptual critique of Canada’s physical literacy assessment instruments. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 21(1), 40–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Roetert, E., Ellenbecker, T., & Krielaars, D. (2018). Physical literacy: Why should we embrace this construct? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52, 1291–1292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. SHAPE America [Society of Health and Physical Educators] (2014). National standards and grade-level outcomes for K-12 physical education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    Google Scholar 

  30. SHAPE America. (2019). Physical literacy. https://www.shapeamerica.org/events/physicalliteracy.aspx.

  31. Shearer, C., Goss, H. R., Edwards, L. C., Keegan, R. J., Knowles, Z. R., Boddy, L. M., et al. (2018). How is physical literacy defined? A contemporary update. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 37(3), 237–245. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.2018-0136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Sport New Zealand. (2019). Physical literacy approach. Guidance for quality physical activity and sport experiences. https://sportnz.org.nz/about-us/who-we-are/what-were-working-towards/physical-literacy-approach/. Accessed 4 Jan 2019.

  33. Sport Wales. (2019). Physical literacy—A journey through life. http://physicalliteracy.sportwales.org.uk/en/. Accessed 4 Jan 2019.

  34. The Aspen Institute (2015a). Physical literacy: A global environment scan. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/physical-literacy-global-environmental-scan-sports-society-program/.

  35. The Aspen Institute (2015b). Physical literacy in the United States: A model, strategic plan, and call to action. http://aspenprojectplay.org/sites/default/files/PhysicalLiteracy.pdf.

  36. Tompsett, C., Burkett, B. J., & McKean, M. (2014). Development of physical literacy and movement competency: A literature review. Journal of Fitness Research, 3(2), 53–74.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Tremblay, M., Costas-Bradstreet, C., Barnes, J. D., Bartlett, B., Dampier, D., Lalonde, C., et al. (2018a). Canada’s physical literacy consensus statement: Process and outcome. BMC Public Health, 18(2), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5903-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Tremblay, M., & Lloyd, M. (2010). Physical literacy measurement: The missing piece. Physical and Health Education Journal, 76(1), 26–30.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Tremblay, M., Longmuir, P. E., Barnes, J. D., Belanger, K., Anderson, K. D., Bruner, B., et al. (2018b). Physical literacy levels of Canadian children aged 8–12 years: Descriptive and normative results from the RBC Learn to Play–CAPL project. BMC Public Health, 18(2), 31–44. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5891-x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Whitehead, M. (2001). The concept of physical literacy. European Journal of Physical Education, 6(2), 127–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/1740898010060205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Whitehead, M. (2007). Physical literacy: Philosophical considerations in relation to developing a sense of self, universality, and propositional knowledge. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 1(3), 281–298. https://doi.org/10.1080/17511320701676916.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Whitehead, M. (Ed.). (2010). Physical literacy: Throughout the lifecourse. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Whitehead, M. (2013a). The history and development of physical literacy. ICSSPE Journal of Sport Science and Physical Education, 65, 22–28.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Whitehead, M. (2013b). Definition of physical literacy and clarification of related issues. ICSSPE Journal of Sport Science and Physical Education, 65, 29–34.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to João Martins.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This work was co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union (590844-EPP-1-2017-1-UK-SPO-SSCP). The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors. The Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Martins, J., Onofre, M., Mota, J. et al. International approaches to the definition, philosophical tenets, and core elements of physical literacy: A scoping review. Prospects 50, 13–30 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-020-09466-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Physical literacy
  • Physical education
  • Physical activity
  • Literacy
  • Learning