Background: The concept of physical literacy has received increased research and international attention recently. Where intervention programs and empirical research are gaining momentum, their operationalizations differ significantly.
Objective: The objective of this study was to inform practice in the measure/assessment of physical literacy via a systematic review of research that has assessed physical literacy (up to 14 June, 2017).
Methods: Five databases were searched using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses for Protocols guidelines, with 32 published articles meeting the inclusion criteria. English-language, peer-reviewed published papers containing empirical studies of physical literacy were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis.
Results: Qualitative methods included: (1) interviews; (2) open-ended questionnaires; (3) reflective diaries; (4) focus groups; (5) participant observations; and (6) visual methods. Quantitative methods included: (1) monitoring devices (e.g., accelerometers); (2) observations (e.g., of physical activity or motor proficiency); (3) psychometrics (e.g., enjoyment, self-perceptions); (4) performance measures (e.g., exergaming, objective times/distances); (5) anthropometric measurements; and (6) one compound measure. Of the measures that made an explicit distinction: 22 (61%) examined the physical domain, eight (22%) the affective domain; five (14%) the cognitive domain; and one (3%) combined three domains (physical, affective, and cognitive) of physical literacy. Researchers tended to declare their philosophical standpoint significantly more in qualitative research compared with quantitative research.
Conclusions: Current research adopts diverse often incompatible methodologies in measuring/assessing physical literacy. Our analysis revealed that by adopting simplistic and linear methods, physical literacy cannot be measured/assessed in a traditional/conventional sense. Therefore, we recommend that researchers are more creative in developing integrated philosophically aligned approaches to measuring/assessing physical literacy. Future research should consider the most recent developments in the field of physical literacy for policy formation.