In contemporary society there are calls to increase young people’s physical activity. In the wake of this concern we find a growing interest in studying and assessing children’s and adolescents’ movement abilities. Consequently, there are a number of tools developed for assessing children’s movement abilities. However, many scholars have suggested that ability is far from a neutral concept and the notion of ability is often taken for granted as simply a measureable and observable capacity. The aim with this study is to critically examine assessment tools used for healthy and typically developed children. (Evans, 2004; Hay & Macdonald, 2013; Wright & Burrows, 2006).
The examination comprises ten tools from six different countries. In the study we pay special attention to selected movement tasks in the tools and the evaluation methods. The theoretical framework is inspired by Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and capital, (Bourdieu, 1988) which are used as analytical tools. The analysis explores and discusses what kind of movement ability the tools may construct.
The findings show both a great variation of concepts and evaluation methods and a narrow view of what is regarded as valuable to assess. The assessment tools are strongly related to traditional sports and represent a specific form of physical capital. Rhythm and dance, for example, are never or seldom assessed, neither movements in a broader perspective as open skills or movement tasks taking place in an outdoor environment. The examined tools and tests assess a limited number of decontextualised movements and produce a narrow view of movement ability.
The study gives an overview of what kind of movements and abilities that is valued and promoted in movement assessment. Evaluation processes often promotes a child who is physically mature and benefits those who have experience of traditional sports. In other words, the assessed ‘taste for sport’ and the ‘embodied physical capital’ construct what is considered to be legitimate knowledge in relation to movement culture. Accordingly, the construction of movement ability through assessment tools could affect how children see themselves and their ‘ability’. The results raises questions about how the assessments influence children’s desire to move or their interest for physical activity in broader perspectives.
Bourdieu, P. (1988). Program for Sociology of Sport. Sociology of Sport Journal, 5, 153-161.
Evans, J. (2004). Making a difference? Education and ‘ability’ in physical education. European Physical Education Review, 10, 95-108.
Hay, P.J., & Macdonald, D. (2013). Evidence for the social construction of ability in physical education. Sport Education and Society, 15, 1-18.
Wright, J. & Burrows, L. (2006). Re-conceiving ability in physical education: a social analysis. Sport Education and Society, 11, 275-291.
20th Annual Congress of European College of Sport science. "Sustainable sport" (ECSS) 24th-27th June, Malmö, Sweden.