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Are You Better Than a 12-Year-Old Student? A Pilot Study to Explore Physical Literacy in Preservice Physical Education Teachers

Chih-Chia (JJ) Chen, Megan E. Holmes, Katie Wood, Yonjoong Ryuh, Pamela Hodges Kulinna


Physical educators play a key role in role modeling to students within the school context. Therefore, there is a need to understand whether current physical education teacher education (PETE) provides sufficient knowledge and practice to prepare preservice educators to be successful. Thirty PETE preservice teachers (23 males, 7 females, aged 19–26) participated in this study. Participants performed tests in physical fitness and motor performance and completed an online questionnaire about cognitive factors (e.g., knowledge and understanding). In addition, a 7-day walking step total was recorded as daily activity in accordance with the Canadian Assessment of Physical Literacy testing battery. Each participant’s performance was compared with the achievement level of a 12-year-old child. Participants had significantly better performance in muscular strength (measured as handgrip test) and flexibility (measured as sit-and-reach test) than a 12-year-old. However, participants had significantly poorer performance in aerobic fitness (measured as PACER), motor performance (measured as obstacle course test), and muscular endurance (measured as plank test) than a 12-year-old. In addition, participants had significantly lower knowledge and understanding of health and physical activity than a 12-year-old. A positive relationship between physical competence (i.e., overall performance in physical fitness and motor performance) and cognitive factor was shown among participants. Growth and maturation may explain participants’ better performance in muscular strength and flexibility. Excessive weight status and low level of knowledge may have contributed to their poor performance in the physical competence domain. The positive relationship may indicate that cognitive factors are a strong predictor of the performance of physical fitness and motor performance. Therefore, for physical educators to promote a healthy lifestyle in education settings, the current PETE curriculum needs to be reviewed and relevant information delivered to promote physical literacy in PETE preservice teachers.

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Physical Literacy; Physical Fitness; Motor Performance; Physical Education Teacher Education

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