We join our hero as he realizes it has been over 3 months since his last post…

Speaking of Physical Literacy Part 3: An Introduction to Physical Literacy Praxis

Right. So suddenly it is 2016. MARCH 2016! I am not sure how so much time went by since my last post – oh wait, I know – life! Life got in the way. And work.  Definitely work. Anywho…

What follows is a lead in to a rough framework that explores the implementation side of physical literacy. The post is loosely based on a talk I gave on October 22, 2015 at the Manitoba Physical Literacy Summit ‘Moving it Forward’. As well, I am working with an exceptional graduate student to design and implement a research project that will use a similar framework in high school physical education (more on that later!). Here goes.

If you recall, the last post in this series was about experiences and stories. So, please consider this story of an experience (brilliant segue, what?)…

PE, recess and lunch were always my favourite subjects in school. Perhaps it was a connection to my life running around on the farm but I found it tough to adjust to school and sedentary life. Opportunities to be active during the school day were not only my favourite times, they were critical to who I was as a person. My problem on this particular school day began with the excitement of heading to the local church basement for PE and ended with a frightening experience no grade two-er should have. I never forgot my PE clothes and shoes. NEVER. This day was no different. I had my shorts. I had my t-shirt. I had my shoes. As we were changing in the tiny bathroom of the church basement, however, I realized I had forgotten something. My regular underwear. I had neglected to put briefs on under my long johns…



EDITORS NOTE: for those from more southerly climes, long johns are full coverage thermal underwear and completely necessary for about 8 months of the year where I live. Thank you.

…and was therefore in a bit of a conundrum. I couldn’t wear my shorts with my long johns, I couldn’t wear my shorts without my regular underwear. I agonized about it until everyone else left the change room and decided to just head out in my jeans and t-shirt so no one would know of my problem. Surely the PE teacher would understand? As I headed over to try and quietly explain my embarrassing dilemma to the enormous ex-football player who was my teacher, he stopped everyone and singled me out. “Doug, you forgot your gym clothes! Come over here!” I sheepishly slunk over to the centre of the basement and was ready to explain my situation when suddenly I was swept off my feet, lifted high into the air and pinned against the ceiling. “Why do you not have your gym clothes?!?” Three quick, relevant facts. Number one, there was no way I was explaining myself in front of the whole class. Number two, I could barely keep myself from peeing my pants, much less actually talk. Number three, I stutter badly when forced to respond verbally under pressure. Therefore, I said nothing except for a few stuttered grunts. After a little more uplifted condemnation fornot being changed, I was forced to sit out for the rest of the class. Although I kept a brave face for my friends, (“That was so cool how he lifted me up so high”) inside I was embarrassed, frustrated, mad and ultimately – helpless. (Gleddie & Schaefer, 2014, p. 9-10)

Now that you’ve read my story (thanks!) answer me this: Why would someone who underwent that sort of humiliation and embarassment go on to have a career in physical education? Why wouldn’t that experience have turned me off of physical education for life? John Dewey, the renowned education philosopher, would probably have answered the question somewhat like this:


Experience and education cannot be directly equated to each other. For some experiences are mis-educative. Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. (1938, p. 25)


I think that I had been ‘inoculated’ or ‘vaccinated’ with WAY too much educative experiences of movement and play to be turned off by one mis-educative experience – no matter how humiliating. Dewey went on to say that there are two key aspects to experience. The first is the immediate:

“Yes, this was good.” OR “No, this was not.”

The second aspect emerges when we consider the influence of the current experience on future experiences. Quite simply – I knew deep down in my soul that the one mis-educative experience with my long johns did not have the power to impact the future already set up by my countless educative experiences with movement and physical education. This idea is enormously important – now put it away for a moment and keep reading… Hopefully, you are already familiar with at least the definition of physical literacy if not the whole set of philosophical underpinnings (here’s a hint… It’s so much more than fundamental movement skills!). What I want to focus on, however, is physical literacy praxis. And no, I did not spell ‘practice’ wrong…

Etymology: From Ancient Greek πρᾶξις ‎(prâxis, “action, activity, practice”)

Noun: praxis ‎(plural praxes or praxises)

  1. The practical application of any branch of learning.

  2. (philosophy) The synthesis of theory and practice, without presuming the primacy of either. (en.wiktionary.org)




Love it! Take a closer look: the synthesis of theory and practice, without presuming the primacy of either. If you remember way back in the Travel Agents post, I quoted Margaret Whitehead as saying:

“Our mission or challenge is to do all we can to enable ALL to make progress on their individual physical literacy journey. (Whitehead, 2013)

This is PRAXIS! This is what physical educators can do with the theory! Or, as John Dewey put it,

“…upon them devolves the responsibility for instituting the conditions for the kind of present experience which has a favourable effect upon the future.” (Dewey, 1938, p. 50)





This is where my rough framework for physical literacy praxis fits in. Here is a visual to get you started.



We leave our hero as he realizes that this post is getting way too long…  Hopefully, he doesn’t wait 3 months before the next one and leave us all hanging…


8 responses to “An Introduction to Physical Literacy Praxis”

  1. […] An Introduction to Physical Literacy Praxis – Doug Gleddie […]

  2. […] Doug Gleddie – An Introduction to Physical Literacy Praxis […]

    1. dgleddie Avatar

      Thanks for the connection!

  3. Justen O'Connor Avatar
    Justen O’Connor

    Nice post Doug. Did you have Mr Woodcock as your gym teacher? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmktLedlCUU

    I think in your model there among students it would be good to add socially critical (ethical, supportive) as this adds a more outward looking focus that young people could look to embody through movement. What this does is extend your frame from a personal physical literacy (self-concept, self-efficacy, self-esteem) to a critical physical literacy which develops responsibilities not only towards self but others. This would open up questions of fairness, equity etc. and begin to allow us to challenge some of the dominant discourses in HPE that tend to marginalise young people and push them away from a life of movement.

    Nice comments above Andy.

    Justen O’Connor

    1. dgleddie Avatar

      Good addition Justen! Speaks to Don Hellison’s work as well. Thanks for your input and contribution! Working on refining this model so I can research it in schools.

      1. Justen O'Connor Avatar
        Justen O’Connor

        No problems. Check out what they are doing with critical health literacy. Also worth taking a look at the productive pedagogies framework which brings in a critical dimension. Keep up the good work.

  4. Andrew Vasily Avatar

    Doug, I enjoyed reading your post and agree, wholeheartedly, with what you have written in this post in regards to physical literacy. In particular, your own ‘physical literacy in action’ framework. When looking at the framework, one can immediately see that actual physical activity is just one of 5 critical components of becoming physically literate. This underpins the critical importance that student-teacher relationships, culture, and taking authentic action also plays in helping students become physically literate citizens of the world.

    However, I’m a bit worried to be honest. As I scan through #physed tweets and read blogs and articles about our subject area, I see that often times there is an intense focus on physical activities and games (hundreds of different versions of playing games), as well as talk of different models of instruction. It’s great to know and understand different models of instruction. Even more important to know how to apply these models in PE.

    Although these areas are critical to success in PE, how often do we see the focus of discussion on the students themselves. On how student learning can be individualized to help better develop self-esteem, self-confidence, and a growth mindset when it comes to being physically active for life? How often do we see discussion about how teachers are structuring their instructional environments to maximize every opportunity possible to dive into the hearts of the students that they teach to open them up to finding the true joy and love of movement (under their own terms and conditions)? Teachers are the ones often setting the terms and conditions of movement in PE. How often is the focus of discussion on revamping our curriculums to create learning experiences that are truly relevant to young people in order to better engage them in the process of taking authentic action in their own lives to seek physical activity outside the walls of the school?

    The reality of teaching PE is that we have very little time with students. Even less time when we think about transitions between classes, getting changed etc. Considering that time is such a precious commodity and there is so little of it, why are some teachers so overly obsessed with skill development? What is going to serve our students better in the long haul of life? Skills and drills? How many burpees or pushups they can do? How fast they can run the 100m? OR————->>>>>> Diving into the minds and hearts of our students and individualizing every minute of their learning in order to powerfully engage them in finding their own entry point to being physically active?

    As a parent myself, there is only one thing that I want to know about my sons when it comes to physical education…..And that is their attitudes toward being active, how these attitudes have changed, and how they like to move and learn best.

    Just look on Twitter over the course of a week or two and see which types of tweets get most retweeted or liked…This speaks volumes for what the majority of PE teachers are after and want to see. For example, different ways to dribble and throw, videos of different types of tag games, different drills for working on striking and fielding etc etc etc). Discussion related to mindset, motivation, self-esteem, student wellness etc, get very little notice or interest. This is the nature of the beast.

    If student engagement is the number one focus of our programs, we need to look much more deeply at the learning environments that we create in our classes, how we address the core areas of mindset, wellness, and motivation FIRST and foremost. Once we establish this focus, we then choose the best activities and games to play.

    Maybe I’m blabbering on…..I know a ton of people will disagree with everything I’ve said here, but I’m a firm believer in focusing purely on the student first, their needs, their mindset, and the learning styles they bring to the table in PE, not 101 ways to play tag or capture the flag. We need to dig so much deeper than this.

    Doing so has allowed me to develop so many meaningful connections with my learners over the years and to see them better embrace movement under their own terms and conditions.

    1. dgleddie Avatar

      Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed comment(s!) Andy. You are preaching to the choir. The student is indeed the centre here (and, I believe, in Whitehead’s theory). There is nothing wrong with the ‘what can I use on Monday’ mentality – UNLESS the professional learning stops there. It must go further and deeper.

Come on, MOVE me!

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