27 June 2019 • Martijn Tamboer
Quick test for motor skills
Joris Hoeboer, lecturer-researcher at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, will receive his Ph.D. on 25 June for his research into motor skills of primary school pupils. He developed the MQ Scan, a quick test to gain insight in a child’s motor skills.
Not a fair chance
‘In the current spirit of the times there is less playing outside and more sitting at the computer. Children are exercising increasingly less with underdeveloped motor skills as a result. Research shows that this means they don’t have a fair chance at an active, healthy lifestyle.
“We are seeing more sedentary behaviour, more excessive weight and less general fitness. Unfortunately, this results in a negative self-image, reduced self-confidence and lower scores on health-related parameters. Science is already making a tentative connection between motor skills and the development of language and cognitive abilities.”
To gain a better grip on children’s motor skills it is important to measure this on a large scale. “The existing tests are not geared at measuring large groups of children. Furthermore, they are very expensive and time consuming.”
That is why Joris started his Ph.D. research four years ago. “We wanted to develop a motoric test that could be used during a PE lesson.” An accessible measuring tool that doesn’t make children feel they are being tested, but that can be used practically, scientifically and applied in policy.
Within one minute
In recent years, Joris, from his position in the Healthy Lifestyle in a Supporting Environment research group, collaborated with the VU University Amsterdam, students from THUAS and PE teachers in the professional field to conduct various research. “We finally came up with an obstacle course. We were able to carry out quick tests on primary school pupils’ motor skills.”
During this so-called MQ Scan, the time a child needs to complete the entire course is registered. Compared with other tests, this method appeared to be simpler and less complex. “The typical tests take at least 20 minutes; the MQ Scan provides a result within one minute.”
But that did not complete the Ph.D. research. They still had to establish the reliability and validity of the test results and how they could be applied in practice. “Fortunately, the follow-up research demonstrated that the MQ Scan is not only very reliable but it is also experienced as fun. We considered it important that children enjoyed taking the test otherwise it would have a negative effect.”
The research group worked closely with researchers from Australia during the research. “In Australia, they conducted follow-up research with children aged 3 and 4. The MQ Scan also yielded positive results there.”
After the test, in collaboration with SASM BV and 2Basics BV, the research group developed a registration system with an app. And that has proven very popular due to its low threshold. By now, the MQ Scan is being used at 500 schools and the motor skills of 60,000 children are measured twice a year.
“The good thing is that you can now compare the scores from the various schools. This enables primary schools to improve their approach by setting up targeted exercise programmes in the PE lessons. Moreover, municipal civil servants can better align their sports policy and public space design to the level of children.”
The task is now to rollout the MQ Scan nationally, in collaboration with ASM BV and 2Basics BV. “Then we will see what needs doing. Working with children with an increased focus by setting up PE lessons differently and with more attention to individually tailored exercises that improve motor skills. Because the foundations of motor skills are laid in primary education.”