You decided to have your students do some physical education fitness testing and you have all of the fitness testing data collected, now what? It is a great question and one that I am sure has a variety of answers, anywhere from putting the results in a file drawer to analyzing the results in great detail. My hope is that you are pushing more toward the analyzing the results end of the spectrum, or honestly, why else are you testing your students?
Thoughts on Fitness Testing Practices
First, let me start with a few thoughts on testing itself. I have struggled with subjecting my students to fitness testing and whether or not I am getting true results. There are several well-known physical educators who are against testing students for various reasons, one of which is it can turn kids away from physical activity, especially kids who are not very physically fit.
Others take the extreme position in handing out awards to those that are fit and dominated the testing. I place myself in the middle of this all, in that I do not grade students based on their results nor do I punish them for not making a certain standard.
My goal is to encourage my students to give me their best effort on that particular day and always to try to do better than before. I know I have some students that are out to set records in my class and they do, but I also have those students that are obese and hate exercise so by asking for their best and encouraging them to beat their personal best, I see first-hand that students are working harder.
Use Fitness Testing Results to Guide Instruction
With that said, what do I do with my fitness testing data? As a PE department, we test our students three times a year and inform the students that the results are used to guide our instruction. Again, this helps to motivate some students. At the end of our school year, we look at what areas of fitness our students performed well and which areas show us we need improvement. We break these results down by age and gender to help us better understand the results.
For our school, we have noticed a downward spiral in muscular strength and endurance, but a slight upward spike for cardiovascular endurance over the past 3 or 4 years. We attribute this spike in cardio to a switch in our focus from team sports to a more fitness-based curriculum. As we continue to gather data, we will work to continue the growth in cardio. Likewise, we know that we need to increase our focus in strength areas to help create a more well-rounded fitness level for our students.
Create a Fitness Report Card
Something we have considered doing with our fitness testing data is creating a Fitness Report Card for students to take home to their parents. Our hesitation lies in putting too much emphasis on testing and turning kids off on becoming healthier individuals because they fear repercussions from home. To ease these concerns, we make sure parents are aware of the testing and inform them that they are welcome to come into school and meet with us about the results and what we are doing to help their child improve, not just on the testing, but really on our main focus, improving wellness.
We also talk with our students individually about their results and what they mean to them and how we can work together to create a fitness plan. Again, the goal of our program is to get our students heading in a positive direction with their health and well-being.
A word of caution with your results – before you start testing, understand that fitness testing can be unreliable due to factors beyond our control and even the students’ control. I say this because we all know that kids can be stubborn, they might feel ill, they might be hesitant of testing, etc., so be understanding and encouraging and you will find your data too be more reliable because your students will know you want them to do their best!
At the end of the day, what you choose to do with your data is up to you, but I do encourage you to use it. Let students know the value and what you are using the results for so they put more stock into what they are about to do. And above all else, MAKE IT FUN!!