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‘Measuring’ Physical Literacy and Related Constructs: A Systematic Review of Empirical Findings

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posted on 2022-12-09, 15:19 authored by Lowri C. Edwards, Anna Bryant, Richard J. Keegan, Kevin Morgan, Stephen-Mark Cooper, Anwen M. Jones



The concept of physical literacy has received increased research and international attention recently. Where intervention programs and empirical research are gaining momentum, their operationalizations differ significantly.


The objective of this study was to inform practice in the measure/assessment of physical literacy via a systematic review of research that has assessed physical literacy (up to 14 June, 2017).


Five databases were searched using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses for Protocols guidelines, with 32 published articles meeting the inclusion criteria. English-language, peer-reviewed published papers containing empirical studies of physical literacy were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis.


Qualitative methods included: (1) interviews; (2) open-ended questionnaires; (3) reflective diaries; (4) focus groups; (5) participant observations; and (6) visual methods. Quantitative methods included: (1) monitoring devices (e.g., accelerometers); (2) observations (e.g., of physical activity or motor proficiency); (3) psychometrics (e.g., enjoyment, self-perceptions); (4) performance measures (e.g., exergaming, objective times/distances); (5) anthropometric measurements; and (6) one compound measure. Of the measures that made an explicit distinction: 22 (61%) examined the physical domain, eight (22%) the affective domain; five (14%) the cognitive domain; and one (3%) combined three domains (physical, affective, and cognitive) of physical literacy. Researchers tended to declare their philosophical standpoint significantly more in qualitative research compared with quantitative research.


Current research adopts diverse often incompatible methodologies in measuring/assessing physical literacy. Our analysis revealed that by adopting simplistic and linear methods, physical literacy cannot be measured/assessed in a traditional/conventional sense. Therefore, we recommend that researchers are more creative in developing integrated philosophically aligned approaches to measuring/assessing physical literacy. Future research should consider the most recent developments in the field of physical literacy for policy formation.


Published in

Sports Medicine




  • VoR (Version of Record)


Edwards, L.C., Bryant, A.S., Keegan, R.J., Morgan, K., Cooper, S.M. and Jones, A.M. (2017) ''Measuring Physical Literacy and Related Constructs: A Systematic Review of Empirical Findings', Sports Medicine DOI 10.1007/s40279-017-0817-9

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences

Cardiff Met Authors

Lowri C. Edwards Anna S. Bryant Kevin Morgan Stephen-Mark Cooper

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group

  • Physical Health Education for Lifelong Learning

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  • © The Authors


  • en

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