A physical literacy framework to design, implement, and evaluate drowning prevention education programs and policy

Dean Dudley, John Cairney

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    Physical literacy is an ever increasing term utilised in human movement science but often with little clarity or deep understanding. At its core, it is a multi-dimensional construct with differing definitional and theoretical underpinnings, however there is consistency on the essential constituent components of the construct. For example, virtually all definitions include competence in movement skills/sequences as core domain of the construct. Positive affect, usually expressed in terms of fun and enjoyment is also present. Motivational constructs such as confidence and self-competence are also commonly identified. Knowledge and learning the importance of movement as an essential condition of human experience – sometimes described as an embodied experience and finally, implicit are the social aspects of movement that have yet to receive as much attention to date.

    Beyond definitions, there appears to be cross-sectoral interest in physical literacy, which interestingly brings together somewhat strange bed fellows: the sport sector, recreation, education and public health being the most prominent in the circle at the moment. It is clear that if one positions physical literacy as the necessary learning one undertakes to participate in lifelong physical activity, then there are implications for it across these diverse sectors, all of whom have some degree of vested interest in the promotion and provision of physical activity.

    According to the perspectives of embodiment, the physical literacy journey is an inherent part of our identity and experience therefore has value in its own right. At the same time, other traditions see physical literacy as a means to achieve other ends, such as increasing participation in pursuits of human movement. These need not be mutually exclusive perspectives, but it may be that because the former tradition as tended to dominate the discourse in academic writing, a full consideration of the role that physical literacy plays in, for example, promoting positive health-related behaviours, has received far less attention.

    Among some practitioners, it is clear that if physical literacy is in reality a gateway to health-promoting behaviours then it follows that physical literacy must also be a necessary determinant of health via its impact on the former. At present, there is no clear conceptual framework based on existing empirical evidence that links physical literacy to health, nor has an evidence-informed case been made for such a positioning.

    In this presentation, we provide a generic framework positioning physical literacy as a strength-based health determinant, based on how professional communities (e.g., public health, education, public safety) might think about physical literacy in the context of drowning prevention. Next, we present a guiding framework for the design, implementation and evaluation of interventions targeting drowning prevention. While drowning behaviours have been shown to be linked to risk taking, problem solving, and aquatic competence, selecting the right kinds of educative activities is critical to ensuring individuals stay engaged and benefit from aquatic participation. The concept of "thinking movement" has been described before, where emphasis is placed not only on the importance of activity, but the combination of cognitive (e.g., problem solving) and movement based skills together as necessary for stimulating positive change in cognitive ability. Physical literacy offers great potential as a framework beyond thinking movement because it focuses not only on movement (motor skill) and physical activity, but also affective (fun) and motivational domains such as competence and confidence. The intersections of motor skill, positive affect and motivation are the core elements required to ensure individuals want to be active in aquatic environments and are critical for maintenance of physical activity and decreased likelihood of drowning across the life-course.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
    EventWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention - Westin Bayshore Hotel, Vancouver, Canada
    Duration: 17 Oct 201719 Oct 2017


    ConferenceWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
    Internet address


    Dive into the research topics of 'A physical literacy framework to design, implement, and evaluate drowning prevention education programs and policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this