Examining the link between general and aquatic motor competence in primary school children

  • Nicole Ann Pratt

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Introduction: Motor competence and the development of Fundamental movement skills (FMS) is outlined as a critical topic, this has been highlighted in recent international conference presentations for the promotion of these skills as a major pedagogical focus (Barnett et al, 2016). Motor competence is widely investigated on dryland however, manifests in; ice, water, and snow (Canadian Sport for Life, 2021). Swimming is a key element of the national curriculum England and has previously been highlighted to have positive associations with dryland motor competences (Rocha et al, 2016). This thesis evaluates whether swimming embedded within primary Physical Education (PE) curriculum could positively impact children’s dryland motor competence.
    Methods: Perceived (Perceived Movement Skill Competence, PMSC) and actual (Test of gross motor development 2nd Edition, TGMD-2) general motor competences were assessed. Additional to this assessment in perceived aquatic motor competence (Aquatic Perceived Competence Pictorial Scale, APCPS) was completed. Univariate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with Bonferroni adjustments were used to examine whether assessment of general motor competence differed as appose to perception of performance in both environments. Providing concurrent and construct validity and reliability data of the Aquatic Movement Protocol (AMP) a tool depicted to assess aquatic motor competence. Concurrent validities were derived through implementing ANCOVA models. Construct validity of the AMP was assessed by both Cronbach Alpha and exploratory factor analysis. Additional psychological aspects to swimming were analysed with the Swimming Efficacy Scale and the Swimming Anxiety Scale. Correlations were implemented to examine relationships between assessed variables. Regression analysis was conducted for significant associations. Pre and post aquatic intervention measurements were taken for process measures of motor competence in both dryland and aquatic environments. Composite scores of both 10 m running sprint time and standing long jump distance was calculated. Level of fear towards the aquatic environment and opportunities to swim were recorded.
    Results: Individuals with higher TGMD-2 scores were categorised within the high perceptions of performance category and obtain significantly higher perceptions of performance compared to those with lower TGMD-2 scores (P=0.02). One main component extracted from the exploratory factor analysis (Eigenvalue = 6.2; % Variance = 62.1) with loadings higher than 0.5 therefore, it’s evident the AMP measures a single construct that we would call: Aquatic motor competence. A significant regression equation was found (F (1,196) = 72.5, P=0.001), with an R2 of 0.266. Children who were classified as high for aquatic motor competence had significantly higher general motor competence (P =0.001) compared to those with low aquatic motor competence. Individuals with higher aquatic motor competence scores have significantly lower anxiety scores (P=0.01). Participants with higher aquatic motor competence scores had significantly higher self-efficacy scores (P=0.038). Following the two (pre & post) by two (interventions & control) mixed model ANOVA there was an overall main effect from pre to post for TGMD-2 scores (P=0.001) for both intervention & control groups.
    Discussion: Swimming-based PE curriculum was found to have a larger effect on motor competence in comparison to dryland PE curriculum. This was indexed by an increase of all key subcategories in both aquatic and general motor competences. Improvements in aquatic movements during swimming lessons in turn will develop movement on dryland. Psychological aspects to motor competence have a major impact on aquatic and general motor competencies. This highlights the importance of having swimming within the National Curriculum England, showing the vitality in implementing a swim programme within a primary educational setting which is essential to improving motor competence and hitting compulsory government guidelines.

    Date of AwardNov 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSam Oxford (Supervisor) & Michael Duncan (Supervisor)

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