IPLA Launch & Charting Progress Workshop

What a great three days (June 5th – 7th 2014)  we have had at the International Physical Literacy Association (IPLA) Workshop at Wyboston Lakes Conference Centre. This was an invitation only workshop to discuss the future of the Association. About 45 delegates attended – and it was truly International. There were people from Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway, Netherlands and Ireland, as well as from all the Home Countries. We spent some time sharing with delegates the Structure and Objects of the Association. We saw the website for the first time for many of us and heard of plans regarding, for example, membership and research. We officially launched the Association and drank to the future. Our Charitable status is pending and thanks to Melanie’s hard work we shall shortly be Registered as a Charity in UK. The Workshop was principally a discussion forum and we enjoyed challenging and thought provoking contributions for delegates which stimulated lively debate. There were two focus issues – IPLA Continuing Professional Development Courses (CPD) and current thinking on charting progress or mapping a physical literacy journey.

We trialled two pilot CPD courses and then reflected on their appropriateness and potential. We have to work hard to think outside the ‘education box’ and to include participation in physical activity throughout the life span. There is a good deal of work to do to create a range of presentations that are accessible to a wide range of people who are interested in physical literacy.

We had brief contributions from a number of colleagues concerning mapping physical literacy journeys. Again we reflected on the ideas presented and identified some key issues to address. Colleagues from Canada shared some established systems and we were grateful for their generosity in this respect.

There was, as usual, considerable debate about the definition of physical literacy, however I felt that insufficient attention was given to the attributes of someone making progress of their journey. These descriptions of what could be called symptomatic behaviours are very valuable and go a long way to explain the concept in more detail.

A frequently asked question is whether an individual can be said to be physically illiterate. My answer would be that, considering the attributes as behaviours symptomatic to showing progress on a physically literacy journey the answer would seem to be ‘Yes’. Where individuals display no motivation and confidence regarding involvement in physical activity, lack physical competence see no value in physical activity and avoid all participation in physical activity they can no longer be described as being physically literate. In other words they become physically illiterate. This, however is not the end of the story as it is never impossible to re-start the journey. The key issue here is that significant others and practitioners who are in contact with a physically illiterate individual should encourage and facilitate involvement in some form of physical activity. Positive and rewarding experiences have the power to enable the individual to start or re-start their journey. Motivation, confidence and physical competence need to be nurtured in non-threatening settings. Realistic targets need to be set and appreciation shown for effort and progress. Discussion about perceptions of physical illiteracy would be valuable.

Given that the possibility of setting up an International Association was only suggested in June 2013, we have made excellent progress. This is all the more remarkable as almost all those involved in this work have full time jobs. So many have given their time very generously and all are to thanked most sincerely.

One Comment on “IPLA Launch & Charting Progress Workshop”

  1. Margaret’s June blog is important because it highlights a tremendous and remarkable achievement in the formation of an International Physical Literacy Association. It is testimony to the growth of interest in Physical Literacy throughout the world and recognition that it has much to offer everyone across the lifespan. It provides also the inspiration for the physical education profession (I would also add coaches as well).
    However, it is the physical illiteracy point that I would like to focus on; I would like to present an alternative way of thinking about it. Many people speak of being physical literate therefore this presupposes that some people might be seen as physically illiterate. I think this could lead us down a difficult path and could create problems. There is a danger that physical literacy can be seen as an end product in the same way as a physically educated person has been portrayed. There is another point that needs to be addressed. If the physical literacy community endorses the idea of being physically literate, there is a danger that specific assessment procedures will emerge and generate a position where some young people can be judged as physically illiterate: I see this as being unacceptable.
    There is a danger also that being classified as ‘physically illiterate’ could mean (or be seen) that one has failed. This may not be their fault. Young people or adults may simply (1) have not been given the opportunity to engage in appropriate purposeful physical pursuits, or (2) they could have had a bad experience in physical education/sport or (3) they may lack understanding of what is required. Sadly, the evidence that I have seen would suggest that large numbers of people have failed to understand the value of being physically active on a regular basis. Is this the individual’s fault or do we need to look elsewhere? If a person is classified as physically illiterate, is it their fault or does the teacher/coach have to take the responsibility?
    I think it is rather like the problem with competitive sport. I would argue that we have to give young people the choice (the freedom) of opting into competitive situations (instead of making it compulsory) because they want to experience the challenge. If young people don’t want to opt into competitive sport, the onus is on the provider – the teacher or coach – to make the experience worthwhile, relevant to the interests and needs of the young person and more satisfying in such a way that young people feel the need to say yes I would like to take part. I would argue that the teacher (or coach) has a responsibility to ensure that engagement with specific content and the pedagogy they adopt should be geared towards having a ‘person centred’ focus rather than a ‘content orientated’ focus of teaching. This is a more educationally sound position and much more likely to attract more young people into sport and keep them interested. When you make make competitive sport compulsory, you take away the very essence of physical literacy, something that is freely chosen.
    I am not making the point that people have to opt into physical literacy. I am suggesting that the onus of responsibility lies with the teacher to make available a quality programme that inspires young people to see engagement in purposeful physical pursuits as enriching and meaningful and freely chosen. Of course, if they choose music or art as their preferred option to enrich their life and gain a sense of meaning that is fine. However, I would argue that there is something extra to be gained from physical literacy. It provides young people with the opportunity of generating a personal resource that gives vitality and energy to living as well as providing the enabling conditions for people gain other valuable goods. If physical education can adopt a physical literacy perspective, this could create a new way of thinking about how young people engage with developmentally appropriate content and develop a pedagogy that inspires young people to see purposeful physical pursuits as a way of enriching their lives and widening their perspectives. We won’t need to speak of ‘physical illiteracy’.

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