Evaluating the role of specialists FMS instruction to support Irish school children's fundamental movement skill development
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Background: Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are an important precursor to enjoyment of, and regular engagement in lifelong physical activity (PA). These skills ideally should be learned between the ages of 3- and 8-years old. In Irish primary schools, Physical Education (PE) is typically taught by non-specialist teachers who may not feel confident to deliver all aspects of the PE curriculum equally. This may be a missed opportunity to support children’s FMS development. Purpose: This research aimed to determine if specialist FMS instruction should be incorporated into primary PE lessons to support Irish school children’s FMS development. Methods: Study one established FMS proficiency levels among 414 school children from the midlands of Ireland. Study 2 involved the design, implementation and evaluation of an 8-week school-based intervention programme focusing on specialist FMS instruction. A cluster cross-over design study was used to examine the immediate and long-term effectiveness of the intervention on FMS proficiency levels of 255 1st and 2nd class children. Finally, a teacher questionnaire was designed to examine teachers’ perceptions, attitudes and perceived confidence to teach PE. This study aimed to identify how the quality of PE lessons could be improved to assist children in learning a broad range of FMS during the primary school years. Findings: Less than 40% of children achieved mastery across 15 different skills, with males performing significantly better than females in ball skills and non-overweight children outperforming overweight/obese children. The intervention programme led to significant improvements in locomotor subtest, ball skills subtest and overall FMS scores immediately following the intervention, and FMS scores remained significantly higher than baseline values at 13-month follow-up. Mainstream teachers in Ireland have positive attitudes towards PE but most feel that their pre-service training did not adequately prepare them to teach PE. However, teachers who completed in-service training with an FMS focus reported higher levels of perceived confidence to teach PE, compared to teachers who completed in-service training without an FMS focus. Conclusion: Irish children are failing to master a broad range of FMS, however, engaging in lessons delivered by professionals with specialist FMS content and pedagogical knowledge may support children’s FMS development.
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