7 Aug, 2014

Physical Literacy Measurement – The Missing Piece

Mark Tremblay and Meghann Lloyd


Physical literacy, as a concept, is the “new kid on the block” and provides a fresh springboard from which a renewed emphasis on physical education can emerge. Many diverse definitions of physical literacy have been forwarded (Haydn-Davies, 2005; Lloyd, Colley, & Tremblay, in press; Lloyd & Tremblay, in press; Mandigo, Francis, Lodewyk, & Lopez, 2009; Maude, 2001; National Summit on Physical Education, 2005; Penney & Chandler, 2000; Sport Canada, 2008; Whitehead, 2001, 2007), and although similarities are evident in all these definitions, no agreement is evident. In fact, a recent poll found that only 17% of Canadians are even aware of the term “physical literacy” (Decima Research, 2008). 

The purpose of this paper is to provide a rationale for the comprehensive and objective measurement of physical literacy as a means to elevate the importance of physical education, increase the robust- ness of physical education assessment, improve monitoring and evaluation of physical education curricula, and provide important surveillance evidence needed to assist with resource allocation by decision-makers. Our belief is that it is necessary to increase the accountability of those teaching and overseeing physical education across Canada, a process that is long overdue.  

The general concept and term is appealing, and when well defined and measurable, helps to better position physical education within the school-based education context. Mandigo et al. (2009) indicate, “the Ontario Ministry of Education is set to launch a new Health and PE Curriculum in 2009 that envisions a generation of physically literate students” (p. 30). If physical literacy is to become a key outcome of physical education curricula, which we firmly believe should be the case, appropriate metrics must be in place to evaluate the key domains of physical literacy. Indeed, it was widespread measurement findings that led to “an era where literacy programs have become a priority for Provincial Ministries of Education” (Mandigo et al., 2009, p. 27). In other words, in order for physical education or physical literacy to gain this type of prominence within the greater education context, it must be measured. Article