Physical Literacy 102 – the ASC framework

29th March 2018 by Helen Parker
Physical Literacy 102 – the ASC framework

This second piece in the Physical Literacy series will focus on the what physical literacy looks like, according to the ASC. I will attempt to summarise many documents into one summary, longer than Physical Literacy 101, and therefore leave discussion of PL and sports and HPE, and the Five Propositions until the PL103 and PL104.

Hopefully PL102 will provide you with a clearer understanding of the PL concept and challenge your thinking as to whether this framework can be a syllabus driver for physical education. Does this detail clarify, complement, confuse or conflate your HPE teaching?

Recap: The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) defines physical literacy as “the integration of physical, psychological, cognitive and social capabilities that help us live active, healthy and fulfilling lifestyles”. Thus, PL is conceived as a multidimensional, holistic concept, focusing on whole-person development across these behaviour domains. The ASC’s interest in this new concept began in 2016, culminating in a detailed set of background papers, draft performance standards and a developmental framework in 2017. See ASC Physical Literacy

Sports Participation focus

The ASC asserts that optimal, lifelong development in these four domains enables sports participation for life and furthers the national agenda for health and wellbeing.  This body seeks to recruit teachers, coaches and parents to adopt the PL concept and embrace a new way of instructing, coaching and supporting sport and physical activity participation. They want coaches to think about sports more broadly – beyond merely developing the physically domain to explicitly including training into other behaviour domains.

How is this to be achieved?

Via two guiding documents – the Draft Physical Literacy Standard and the PL Development Milestones. Each is presented in a reasonably clear graphical layout with movement / activity examples arranged from simple through to more complex.

1. The Draft Physical Literacy Standard:

Published in late 2017 as a guide to teachers, coaches, parents and participants, and with three purposes: To “promotes a shared vision (of physical literacy), clarity of understanding (of what comprises the concept) and a common language around effective and high-impact development of physical literacy (is terminology consistent with Australian Curriculum usage?).” (p.6, Explaining the Standard).

The PL standard describes 33 behavioural elements identified as ‘essential’ ingredients for PL across five levels of behaviour development. The 33 behavioural elements in the four domains in the Standards (physical domain, psychological, social, and cognitive domains), are mapped across 5 levels of development (the stages through which a child /youth /adult can progress or regress).


From an educational perspective, you can appreciate that these level descriptors are very broad and not sensitive enough for assessing progress and use quite different terms to the achievement standards in the WA HPE curriculum. Further, the ‘Tips for development’ between each level usually correlate with age-related activities from baby/toddlerhood through to adult stages, although Levels are meant to be useful to a novice participant in a new activity, whether adult or adolescent or child, to map their personal development.

2. The PL Development Milestones.

A motor development framework comprising seven aspirational milestones or levels of proficiency for all 33 elements. These are to support a participation pathway for all.

  • Milestone 1 = First experiences
  • Milestone 2 = Exploration
  • Milestone 3 = Early application and exposure
  • Milestone 4 = Coordination and control
  • Milestone 5 = Refinement and adaptation
  • Milestone 6 = Consistency and extension
  • Milestone 7 = Lifelong engagement and participation

It is not clear to me how the concept of PL is enhanced by this Milestone framework as it presents the development of each behavioural in isolation of the others.   Is not PL a holistic concept?

If you are interested in the research methodology and background sources used by ASC to settle on its concept of Physical Literacy and to develop the draft Standard and Milestones refer here.

My take home message:

To quote “Physical literacy is about building the skills, knowledge and behaviours to help us lead active lives. It is the holistic learning that occurs through movement and physical activity integrating physical, psychological, social and cognitive capabilities” (ASC, Explaining the Standard, p.5).

It is not clear to me that the target audiences for these documents – the parents, coaches, educators, children – would necessarily gain a shared vision or consistent understanding of PL. I think we can appreciate the four capability domains but once there is a separation of the ‘whole’ into a smorgasbord of behavioural elements, each of which is explained as separate entities across levels and milestones, it is hard to ‘see the forest for the trees’. The holistic notion, and integration is lost.

Did I Clarify, Complement, Confuse, or Conflate? Which is it for you?

By Helen Parker


The next instalment, Physical Literacy 103, will show how the ASC framework is conceived from a sports participation perspective. How does this perspective work with HPE? What about teaching sport in school? Do the five propositions enable physical literacy development?