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

Laura Alfrey, Michael Gard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 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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