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Elizabeth J. Durden-Myers and Margaret E. Whitehead

Physical literacy has been described as a “longed for concept” and has in turn gained much interest worldwide. This interest has also given rise for calls for physical literacy to be operationalized, providing clarity and guidance on developing physical literacy informed practice. Operationalizing physical literacy is crucial in moving the concept forward by providing “substance to the claims made by (physical literacy) advocates.” This special issue aims to respond to calls for research to “unpack” physical literacy across a number of areas in pursuit of operationalizing physical literacy in practice. Nine articles are included within this special issue.

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Elizabeth J. Durden-Myers, Nigel R. Green and Margaret E. Whitehead

This study considers the implications for teachers of physical education of adopting physical literacy as the focus of their work. These implications arise from the philosophical underpinning of the concept, from the definition of physical literacy and are in line with the mission of the International Physical Literacy Association. In the first section of this study, recommendations stemming from the philosophical roots of the concept will be outlined in brief. The other three sections will demonstrate how this philosophical basis and the definition of physical literacy should inform, first, lesson and unit content; second, teaching approaches; and, finally, curriculum planning. Unpacking the implications and what physical literacy looks like in practice is essential if teachers are to begin to incorporate physical literacy within their practice.

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Margaret E. Whitehead, Elizabeth J. Durden-Myers and Niek Pot

This article considers the value of physical literacy. Unequivocal support for aspects of the concept can be found in philosophy, neuroscience, social justice, the nature of human development, psychology, and sociocultural studies. These areas of support will be outlined and then related to the practical value of physical literacy in the school context. This article will close with a discussion centered on claims that physical literacy is an end in itself rather than predominantly a means to other ends. It is the aim of this article to communicate the unique value of fostering physical literacy within the school context, including the support and relationship to other interrelated disciplines.

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Niek Pot, Margaret E. Whitehead and Elizabeth J. Durden-Myers

This article aims to give an overview of the philosophical foundations of physical literacy (monism, existentialism, and phenomenology) and to discuss how philosophy can be operationalized in physical education practice. When translated into physical education practice, the physical literacy philosophies give credence to the view that, in schools, physical education should not be considered as a subsidiary subject that is needed merely to refresh the mind for the cognitive subjects. The authors also highlight that the context in which activities take place should be challenging, realistic, and adaptable to the individual preferences and levels of attainment of the different learners. Often, these contexts go beyond the traditional competitive sports context. Drawing on these philosophies, physical education must be learner centered and provide situations in which learners can discover and develop their individual potential to stay motivated, confident, and competent for engagement in physical activities for life.

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Elizabeth J. Durden-Myers, Margaret E. Whitehead and Niek Pot

This article explores the relationship between physical literacy and human flourishing. Understanding the contribution physical literacy may have in nurturing human flourishing extends the philosophical rationale and importance of physical literacy in relation to maximizing human potential. This article proposes that the concept of physical literacy is being embraced worldwide, in part due to the contribution physical literacy may make in nurturing human flourishing. Therefore, this article discusses the relationship between physical literacy and human flourishing in detail, unveiling what value this connection may hold in promoting physical literacy as an element integral in enhancing quality of life. Aspects of human flourishing are presented and examined alongside physical literacy. Synergies between physical literacy and human flourishing are not hard to find, and this gives credence to the growing adoption of physical literacy as a valuable human capability.

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Cara Shearer, Hannah R. Goss, Lowri C. Edwards, Richard J. Keegan, Zoe R. Knowles, Lynne M. Boddy, Elizabeth J. Durden-Myers and Lawrence Foweather

Physical literacy continues to gain global momentum, yet the definition and underlying concept of physical literacy remain contested in both research and practice. This lack of clarity has the potential to undermine the operationalization of physical literacy. This paper considers the various definitions of physical literacy that are currently adopted internationally. Physical literacy experts identified seven leading groups that have established physical literacy initiatives. Although each group is unified in using the term physical literacy, there are contrasting definitions and interpretations of the concept. Common themes were identified, including the (a) influence of physical literacy philosophy, (b) core elements of physical literacy, (c) lifelong nature of physical literacy, and (d) the need to scientifically pursue a robust operationalization of the concept. We conclude by recommending that programs relating to physical literacy should provide a definition, a clear philosophical approach, and transparency with how their actions align with this approach.