A crack where the light gets in: a study of health and physical education teachers’ perspectives on fitness testing as a context for learning about health

Laura Alfrey, Michael Gard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite extensive critique, the teaching of Health and Physical Education (HPE) continues to be characterised by individualised and performative ideologies which are reflected in part by a continued focus upon fitness testing. There has been little attempt, however, to explore Australian HPE teachers’ thoughts and reasoning for its privileged inclusion in their programmes. This paper draws on findings from a broader two-phase, mixed-method research project carried out in the state of Victoria which explored HPE teachers’ perspectives on the Health Education– Physical Education (PE) nexus. Here we focus specifically on the data related to teachers’ perspectives on fitness testing as a context for learning. The findings suggest that, firstly, many teachers felt unsure about why they used fitness testing, and that they needed more professional development (PD) to support the integration of Health Education and PE in HPE. Secondly, while teachers offered a range of justifications for their use, others were critical of fitness tests as an educational practice. Although based on a small sample, this study is the one of first that we are aware of to probe the beliefs, logics and ambivalences that HPE teachers feel towards fitness testing. These data suggest that rather than monolithically conservative or fixed, some HPE teachers’ views are beginning to reflect the dangers and shortcomings of fitness testing as a context for learning. There are, at the very least, ‘cracks’ in the way HPE teachers think about fitness testing. These cracks represent opportunities for shifting HPE practice, most obviously through PD and less formal kinds of collegial dialogue. Perhaps most interesting of all, these data exemplify an instance where the theory/practice divide may not be so wide after all, and that what some teachers need most may simply be to be validated and encouraged in their already critically reflective thinking.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-18
    Number of pages16
    JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Fitness testing
    • Health and Physical Education
    • Philosophies
    • Sociology
    • Teachers

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