Figuring out the prevalence of fitness testing in physical education: a figurational analysis

Laura Alfrey, Michael Gard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper explores the ways in which figurational sociology can offer a useful lens through which to understand the ongoing use of fitness testing as a means to physically educate young people. We contribute to a theoretical discussion around how physical education teachers have come to think about and enact fitness testing so pervasively. Applying a figurational lens: (a) encourages us to view fitness testing as a historically rooted practice; (b) sensitises us to the importance of social interdependencies and habitus when trying to understand their prevalence; (c) helps us to go beyond the labelling of fitness testing as ‘disciplinary’ and encourages us to identify the (un)intended consequences of fitness testing, and how these are enabling and constraining and for whom. Using a figurational lens we identify scientisation and shaming as two social processes that can help us understand why physical educators use fitness testing as a context for learning despite a lack of evidence to suggest its worth. The theorising articulated in this paper, together with the sociological work it follows, can help us move forward in terms of pedagogical possibilities for physical education.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)187-202
    Number of pages16
    JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Elias
    • figurational sociology
    • fitness testing
    • Physical education
    • teachers

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