Physical literacy in Europe: The current state of implementation in research, practice, and policy

Carl, J., Bryant, A., Edwards, L.C., Bartle, G., Birch, J., Christodoulides, Efstathios, Emeljanovas, A., Fröberg, A., Gandrieau, J. et al (2023) Physical literacy in Europe: The current state of implementation in research, practice, and policy. Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, 21 (1). pp. 165-176. ISSN 1728869X

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The holistic concept of physical literacy (PL) embraces different person-centered qualities (physical, cognitive, affective/psychological) necessary to lead physically active lifestyles. PL has recently gained increasing attention globally and Europe is no exception. However, scientific endeavors summarizing the current state of PL in Europe are lacking. Therefore, the goal of this study was to comprehensively assess and compare the implementation of PL in research, policy, and practice across the continent.

We assembled a panel of experts representing 25 European countries. Employing a complementary mixed-methods design, the experts first prepared reviews about the current state of PL in their countries (categories: research, practice/policy). The reviews underwent comparative document analysis, ensuring a transnational four-eyes principle. For re-validation purposes, the representatives completed a quantitative survey with questions reflecting the inductive themes from the document analysis.

The document analysis resulted in ten disjunct themes (related to “concept”, “research”, “practice/policy”, “future/prospect”) and yielded a heterogenous PL situation in Europe. The implementation state was strongly linked to conceptual discussions (e.g., existence of competing approaches), linguistic issues (e.g., translations), and country-specific traditions. Despite growing scholarly attention, PL hesitantly permeates practice and policy in most countries. Nevertheless, the experts largely anticipate increasing popularity of PL for the future.

Despite the heterogeneous situation across Europe, the analysis has uncovered similarities among the countries, such as the presence of established yet not identical concepts. Research should intensify academic activities (conceptual-linguistic elaborations, empirical work) before PL may gain further access into practical and political spheres in the long term.

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