A Conceptual Framework for Physical Literacy

During the summer I read the Aspen’s Reviews, the Australian Physical Literacy and Sport Review and the UDSA Physical Literacy Plan. The one-dimensional and narrow perspective that they attribute to Physical Literacy has become simply “old wine in a new bottle”. As a consequence I have created a conceptual framework for Physical Literacy as a guide to articulating what needs to be considered when generating a framework to stimulate informed practice. The following components of Physical Literacy are outlined in more detail in the attached pdf.

  1. Development of Personhood

It is important for young people and adults that they can construct ideas for themselves about what they would like their lives to be, what they can aspire to be and what they would like to achieve (there are matters of significance for them). In order to achieve this, a sense of autonomy and agency are important so that they can be the authors of their own life plan.

  1. A Person’s Movement Capability
  • Vitality, vigour and dynamism
  • Expressive and aesthetic qualities
  • Competence potential
  • Resource for living well
  1. Cultural richness and its association with enhancing the quality of lives through engaging in purposeful physical pursuits and learning to value them as an integral part of one’s life. They have the potential to enrich lives in many ways and make a significant contribution to enabling people to lead a satisfying life.

By using the term purposeful physical pursuits, I am saying that physical activity cannot be the central focus of Physical Literacy. It is a purposeful pursuit (of a certain kind of which there are many variations and possibilities with rich potential) that provides enrichment, meaning and generates motivation.

  1. Personal Wellbeing.
  1. The embodied nature of Physical Literacy means that this capability operates in concert with other capabilities associated with developing personal qualities and promoting Inner resources

For further information please see the attached PDF below:

A Conceptual Framework for Physical Literacy - A personal perspective [PDF] (496 downloads)

3 Comments on “A Conceptual Framework for Physical Literacy”

  1. A really good blog post! The conceptual framework encompasses the true nature of the concept physical literacy. The personhood and cultural richness elements are so powerful for physical literacy to be embraced, as an international and world wide concept for engagement in purposeful physical pursuits throughout the life course. It is important, more now than ever, due to the rise in obesity and a lacking of low physical activity, for advocacy to take place. For physical educators, practitioners and coaches to provide a diverse range of opportunities, that aim to target ones embodiedment and challenge ones embodied potential to grow and flourish. A sense of pleasure and satisfication in meaningful situations will ignite ones disposition, personhood, in what we strive to achieve and the education validity will be embedded in ones physical literacy journey. Moreover, the philosophical underpinnings of physical literacy are truly personal to our lives as humans and our capability to move. The next step is to provide a practical framework for physical literacy!

  2. Hello Len.

    Thank you for your post. As always, you give us a great deal to think about but as a blog, perhaps several bite sized chunks rather than the long essay would encourage more of us to respond 🙂

    As a starter, could you explain why you use the phrase ‘purposeful physical pursuits’ – my fear is that many friends and colleagues around the world will not understand this phrase. I spoke to a couple of my international network and they immediately equated it to English country pursuits – one asked if I was talking about clay pigeon shooting!

    I quite like the word ‘purposeful’ – would ‘purposeful physical activity’ be more helpful in attracting people to the discussion at this stage?


  3. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify my use of terms.

    Having worked in early years for a number of years I find that practitioners are not comfortable with physical activity because they always ask for clarification.

    First of all they will say, ‘Just walking around or climbing a few steps is physical activity but you don’t mean that.” So, what are you trying to get us to do?

    Secondly, they often use the term active play when they refer to someone standing up playing at a sand table when there is no real movement.

    Thirdly, I observe a lot of very low level movement that is just meandering around from one thing to another without really doing anything. Or, I see in circle time, children just moving their hands only a small distance in ‘row, row the boat’ and simply going through the motions without nay enthusiasm.

    They need to think of physical play that is purposeful because it is generating real challenges and addressing unfilled needs (that are currently not be met).

    Purposeful Physical Play: It is physical play that is purposeful because:
    • It is intentional and freely chosen
    • There are opportunities for exploration and providing children with attractive options
    • It stimulates further practice
    • It stimulates causal curiosity – it leads to something.
    • There is a lot to learn and there is depth to be uncovered
    • There is a wide choice to suit all interests and capabilities
    • It can provide meaningful experiences, challenges and satisfactions.
    • There is abundant potential to enrich children’s lives, widen their perspectives and enhance their capacities.

    But, in order to achieve this practitioners need to have a concept of:
    • A clear vision and a sense of direction of what needs to be done
    • A Sharp Focus to highlight what can be done
    • Informed Practice: making sense of what needs to be planned and organised

    This requires creating enabling environments so that children can be absorbed in their physical play, use their curiosity and willingness to explore what they ‘Can Do’ in a variety of carefully planned enabling environments that generate positive activities – activities that are purposeful to the child. This is the key to promoting more engagement and the development of interest in being physically active: they are starting to love being active.

    It means also that they require an understanding of children’s entitlement to specific domains (areas of experience) such as:
    • Object Play
    • Exercise Play
    • Outdoor Play, play in natural environments and Deep Play
    • Expressive Movement and Dance

    All this has generated a process of rethinking about culturally valued physical activities and what they mean to people. I feel that we have given insufficient time to this form of thinking and we have failed to explore the value of Physical Education adequately. This leads me to the notion of a pursuit that I now regard as being a crucial way of thinking about different forms of physical activity.

    You don’t make a commitment to physical activities, it is always a pursuit that you value and look forward to engaging in – a purposeful physical pursuit. By using the term purposeful physical pursuits we are opening up an important area of endeavour that is much wider in scope that just being physically active. The potential of these pursuits is significant because they involve getting on the inside of what these pursuits can offer. There is a wide range of possibilities that can provide very different meaningful experiences, challenges and satisfactions for enhancing the quality of people’s lives and enriching them.

    I prefer to avoid speaking of physical activity because it is far too narrow and does not address the idea of making a commitment that is central to promoting purposeful physical pursuits.

    Finally,new words and terms emerge all the time so why shouldn’t we consider different ways of thinking about our use of terms (such as physical activity) and explain our reasons for thinking differently.

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