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The Modified TWU Aquatic Assessment

This is an excerpt from Assessments and Activities for Teaching Swimming eBook by Monica Lepore,Luis Columna & Lauren Friedlander Lizner.

The TWU aquatic assessment, designed by Dr. Carol Huettig in 1998, is a curriculum-based assessment instrument that addresses the following:

  • Water adjustment skills
  • Flotation skills
  • Basic propulsion and breathing skills
  • Swim stroke skills
  • Entry and exit skills

Skills in each of these five categories progress in a hierarchical fashion (from simple to complex) to the acquisition of the next skill (Columna, 2011).

This assessment instrument is divided into six levels. Level 1 is the simplest, and level 6 is the most advanced. We propose using the modified TWU assessment instrument for three reasons: (1) it has been used successfully by many aquatics professionals, (2) it is very easy to use, and (3) it is free. Keep in mind that, as a parent or instructor, you should not consider yourself an expert on assessment after reading this book; that would require additional training. The goal of this book is to help you teach aquatic activities to your child or student. We are not trying to replace professional aquatics instructors or programs. We also recommend that you perform your assessments in a community pool with a lifeguard on duty.

Levels of the Assessment

This section provides brief descriptions of each level of the modified TWU assessment. It is followed by a discussion of how to match the assessment to the activities in part II.

Level 1

Aquatic environments can be overwhelming for young children or those with intellectual or learning disabilities. Level 1 provides a gentle introduction to the water to create a positive, successful experience for beginning swimmers. For those with no previous experience in the water, level 1 introduces 24 basic aquatic skills to help the student acclimate to the aquatic environment. This level starts with activities that involve playing with toys on the pool deck with no interaction with the water. Eventually, the activities include walking, jumping, and even running in the water. Once students are comfortable in the water, they are shown how to blow bubbles and pick up objects from underwater.

Level 2

Once students have mastered the activities in level 1, they proceed to level 2. Those who can already perform the skills required for level 1 can begin instruction at level 2. As in level 1, students in level 2 perform 24 swimming skills, although in this level they include bobbing, floating, kicking, and jumping. For many beginner swimmers, the most difficult skills are floating faceup or facedown. Floating faceup is the most challenging skill in this level.

Level 3

Level 3 is the typical entry level for most students who sign up for swim lessons; those with previous recreational experiences with their families tend to start at level 3. This level includes a review of some skills introduced in level 2, such as bobbing, but then takes these skills to a higher level. Additional skills presented at this level include rhythmic breathing and gliding. These two skills are essential for progressing to the more advanced swimming skills, such as the front crawl. Level 3 addresses 23 swimming skills, including combining breathing and gliding while performing the front crawl, and progresses to the integration of the flutter kick.

The most difficult skills at this level are jumping into deep water, treading water, and full body submersion. These skills are prerequisites for the safety skills and the more advanced skills that are introduced at the remaining levels.

Students progress into the deep end in level 3.

Level 4

Level 4 includes 17 skills. Similar to levels 2 and 3, students at level 4 perform more advanced versions of some of the skills they were introduced to earlier. Skills at this level include the front crawl, elementary backstroke, and breaststroke. The primary difference between levels 3 and 4 is that students are required to perform skills for longer periods of time and for longer distances in level 4. In addition, students combine key skills such as breathing and kicking.

Level 5 and Level 6

Once students reach levels 5 and 6, they can participate in competitive sports and take part in more advanced aquatic activities. All of the skills students need to successfully and safely participate in aquatic environments are tested at these two levels. Skills such as the front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, sidestroke, and butterfly are the same skills swimmers need to compete on teams.

Learn more about Assessments and Activities for Teaching Swimming.