Physical education researcher grabs global attention

Improving Health and Wellbeing

A paper drafted in response to a YouTube post has become the “most downloaded” paper in a prestigious teaching journal.

Dr Lisa Barnett, a researcher from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) and the School of Health and Social Development, is delighted that her paper on the importance of teaching fundamental movement skills to young children has been named “Most Downloaded Paper” in the “Journal of Teaching in Physical Education.”

Entitled “Fundamental Movement Skills: An Important Focus,” the article was co-written with 12 international experts to provide an evidence-based case in a debate about the best way to increase physical activity in young children. It has been downloaded from Research Gate over 2800 times since its publication in July 2016.

The paper dispels a series of myths that discredit the value of teaching fundamental movement skills (FMS) as a primary pedagogical focus. It defines FMS, discusses what skills can be considered fundamental and how their development is related to broader developmental health contexts, and recommends the use of specific pedagogical approaches when teaching FMS.

Since beginning her public health career promoting physical activity in rural NSW, Dr Barnett has worked tirelessly to improve children’s activity levels.

In her new phase of research she is investigating how children think about their motor skills. She is leading a special issue in the “Journal of Motor Learning and Development” with 15 papers from 10 countries that will reveal how motor perceptions differ according to cultural background. These perceptions play a key role in an individual’s activity levels throughout their life.

Dr Barnett’s research has shown that “just getting children to play active games is not enough to develop their gross motor skills”.

“Half of Australian children haven’t mastered basic movement skills like throwing, kicking and jumping by the time they leave primary school.”
Dr Lisa Barnett
Dr Lisa Barnett Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Social Development

“Many children do not have the basic skills to play a game of soccer, for instance, so putting them into a game before they are ready can be setting them up for failure and a belief they are not capable.

“Less active children may already be alienated from sport in the early primary school years.

“However, on the other hand, basic skills don’t have to be taught through drills. They can be acquired through interesting and engaging strategies.”

Dr Barnett said she was particularly pleased the FMS paper has been reaching an audience of physical educators, as this is the group most likely to translate her research findings into strategies that benefit children.

“I collaborated with international colleagues on this piece as I felt that would add weight to our case. I also wanted to show the value of participating in a debate in a respectful way, so the ideas and evidence can help researchers and practitioners work out the best ways to go forward,” she said.

This article was published by Deakin Research on 24 May 2017.

The Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition

The Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) is a world-leading research institute committed to improving health and quality of life. We focus on reducing the rates of chronic disease through nutrition and physical activity research excellence while fostering the next generation of research stars.