Strategies Table of Contents

Fitness Assessment: Recommendations for an Enjoyable Student Experience

Sharon R. Phillips, Risto Marttinen, and Kevin Mercier

The thought of physical education often causes adults to remember hanging on a pull-up bar in front of the entire class and struggling to complete a single pull-up. One by one, students would take their turn hanging in front of their peers, while attempting to pull their chin up and over the bar. Some students could perform one, maybe two pull-ups easily. Others contorted their bodies or kicked their legs like frogs to help pull themselves upward, while still others hung there, trying to no avail to even bend their arms. Many people would likely cringe at the memory of those students who were horrified when they heard their name called to step up to that bar. Unfortunately, students who could and students who could not perform a pull-up likely already knew if they were about to show off their strength or be embarrassed in a very public forum. What was the purpose of this exercise? Research suggests that often nothing was gained; students were not motivated to improve their fitness nor did they learn much about physical activity as a result of this humiliating experience (Cale & Harris, 2009).

Fortunately, in most places, the days of promoting negative experiences through fi tness assessment highlighted by pull-ups and the mile run (in which the slowest student had to shuffl e across the fi nish line in front of a snickering class) are gone. Today, fi tness assessment is often used appropriately (e.g., not in front of an audience) to help students learn more about fi tness and physical activity; it can even support the promotion of positive attitudes toward physical activity (Silverman, Keating, & Phillips, 2010)! Research has suggested that students who develop positive attitudes toward physical education may lead more active lives (Solmon, 2003). Fitness assessment is part of physical education and can contribute to the formation of attitudes that could determine students’ lifelong physical activity levels. Th e purpose of this article is to share information with teachers about how fi tness assessment should be used in their physical education classes and to share strategies that will help students develop positive attitudes toward being active.

Recommendations for Appropriate Fitness Assessments
Fitness education and the assessment of health-related fi tness components should be part of a year-long curriculum (Silverman, Keating, & Phillips, 2010), which is the fi rst recommendation. Fitness education is defi ned by SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators (2012, p. 1) as “the instructional and learning process of acquiring knowledge, skills and values; experiencing regular participation in physical activity; and promoting healthy nutrition choices to achieve life-enhancing health-related fi tness.” Teachers should be able to identify how they will plan and teach lessons that allow students to gain knowledge through physical education experiences within each component of health-related fi tness. For example, sixth-grade students participating in the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) assessment should learn that they are exercising their heart muscle and link this activity to the purpose of cardiovascular fi tness. Consistent reinforcement of health-related fi tness principles within lessons throughout the year allows students to understand the importance of fi tness assessment as a way to measure their current fitness levels.

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