Physical literacy has been identified as the underlying goal of all physical activity. Physical literacy is a concept that addresses the whole child and respects each learner as individual. It is not a state that, once achieved, pertains for life, it is more akin to a personal, cradle to grave, journey.
By definition individuals who are making progress on their Physical Literacy journey can be described as having the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take part in physical activity throughout the lifecourse.
While apposite to all stages of life, the early and primary years have particular significance. It is at this stage that physical competence is very readily enhanced and when attitudes to physical activity are established. Equally it is a time when the learners begin to develop their self-awareness and self-concept and are hungry for knowledge.
The pedagogical principles that need to be addressed to promote Physical Literacy include a positive, supportive and encouraging learning environment in which individuals are commended on personal progress. Assessment is ipsative and is viewed as charting progress rather than meeting pre-ordained benchmarks. The experiences that learners meet in the physical activity context are best varied, so that young learners develop physical competence in a wide range of fields. For example in activities:-
Individuals’ Physical Literacy journeys are influenced by many significant others, including practitioners, throughout the lifecourse. However the years of schooling are the only time when all young people will work in the curriculum with qualified teachers who have sound knowledge and expertise in the area of physical activity and can thus enable every child to make progress on their individual Physical Literacy journey. Teachers of Physical Education can be seen to have the prime responsibility to nurture Physical Literacy. Where this is achieved for each individual, there is the potential for a most valuable legacy of a positive attitude to physical activity that can last a lifetime and add significantly to quality of life.
The concept is founded on monist principles, existentialism and phenomenology.
Those interested to learn more can access the website http://www.physical-literacy.org.uk/ and/or read Whitehead, M.E. (Ed) 2010 Physical Literacy: Throughout the lifecourse. London. Routledge.
Professor Margaret Whitehead