Testing fitness tests - how the students feel

PE class could potentially be reevaluating one of its staple units, physical fitness assessments.
01 August 2019


Young people taking part in track and fitness training


Did you hate PE growing up as a kid? Maybe you loved it? Turns out, those feelings of love or loathe were affected very little by the fitness tests that haunt students to this day.

A research article published in the journal of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy has analyzed the associated attitudes and emotions of 273 US students toward PE class after participating in numerous fitness assessments. The students, aged 11-14, were asked to complete the infamous PACER test which looks at running stamina, the pushup assessment, the partial sit-up test, and lastly the sit-and-reach-for-your-toes flexibility test. After completing all of the tests, the research team from the Taylor & Francis Group found that the assessments make an insignificant difference in how the students perceive PE class.

After participating in the fitness tests, male perception of PE only deviated by about 12% in either positive or negative connotation. The deviation lessened after looking at the female participants, which had a perception change of only 5%. This means that if there was a documented change in attitude or emotion from a female participant, the fitness tests were only associated as being 5% of the true cause for those changes in perception.

In order to accurately measure the relationship between the student’s perception of PE and the fitness tests, the researchers incorporated separate methods of recording information for attitude and emotion. The attitude of the students was recorded using The Students Attitudes Toward PE (SATPE) instrument which is a documented, valid and reliable method for measuring attitudes of children in grades 6-8. The instrument is composed of an “affective” and a “cognitive” component, and within each component were questions followed by a Likert scale ranging from ‘strongly agree’ (1) to ‘strongly disagree’ (5) which the students would then fill out accordingly.

The emotions of the students were recorded using the Discrete Emotions in Physical Education Scale (DEPES) with modification from the Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (AEQ). The hybrid emotion measuring instrument included three emotions - enjoyment, anger, and boredom - represented by responses such as ‘I enjoy being in PE class’, ‘I start yawning in class because I’m so bored’, and ‘I feel frustrated in PE class.’ Each phrase was also followed by a Likert scale ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’.

The team of researchers also made use of the fact that their student sample was 52% male and 48% female by looking at which tests left different impressions on the two sexes. They found that teenage males associated more importance to improved performance in the PACER test, while the females did not seem to mind how well they performed. In regards to the sit-and-reach test though, improved performance was seen as more important for the females while the male participants did not care if they improved. The team did find common ground between the sexes however. When looking at the partial sit-up tests, both the male and female students showed higher rates of anger toward PE. 

The major discussion now in the health and fitness education communities is how to better optimize the time that has previously been dedicated to fitness tests. The ultimate goal is to see a merger between a new refined physical education curriculum and the varying fitness tests to create a new fitness education system that better influences youth to live an overall more active lifestyle. Maybe even influence them enough to change those strong feelings of anger toward sit-ups. 


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