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The Social Construction of Ability in Movement Assessment Tools

This paper focuses on how ‘ability’ is conceptualised, configured and produced in movement assessment tools. The aim of the study was to critically analyse assessment tools used for healthy and typically developed children. The sample consists of 10 tools from 6 different countries. In the study, we pay special attention to content and evaluation methods. The theoretical analysis explores and discusses what kind of movement ability the tools construct. The theoretical framework is inspired by Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, capital and field which are used as analytical tools to explore how the testing processes and content shape what is regarded as ability. Our findings show both a great variation of concepts and evaluation methods and a narrow view of what is regarded as valuable to assess. The assessed movements are strongly related to traditional sports and construct a specific form of physical capital. None of the tasks assessed take place in natural outdoor environments. Open skills, rhythmical movements to music or tasks including a wider range of flexibility are also absent in the assessment tools. The explored tools and tests assess a limited number of decontextualized movements and produce a narrow view of ‘ability’. Hence, the testing process itself often promotes a child who is physically mature and benefits those who have experience of traditional sports. In other words, the assessed ‘taste for sport’ and the ’embodied physical capital’ construct what is considered to be legitimate knowledge in relation to movement and physical culture. Accordingly, the social construction of movement ability through assessment tools is far from a neutral concept and could affect how children see themselves and their ‘ability’.