Rethinking my thinking on assessment in physical education
Reflection by Kyle Sutton – ACHPER NSW Board member
What is the future of PE assessment?
I was recently reading a position statement on Assessment in Physical Education brought together by 71 experts from 20 different countries. It got me thinking about Assessment in PE because of its long history of being undervalued and from what the research in this paper highlights, a quality that “is worrisome with physical educators struggling to meet the demands for a reliable and valid grading system”.
I remember from my own experiences at school that whether or not we had the correct uniform or whether or not we were participating within a lesson would equate to a grade based on effort rather than knowledge and skills. The research has also indicated a high prevalence of assessing technical skills in isolation making it difficult for students to really understand an alignment between the lesson tasks and assessment but also the relevance to the outside world as they were not authentic.
The AIESEP statement has six sections which were aligned to the main themes of their original seminar; Assessment Literacy, Assessment & Policy, Instructional Alignment, Assessment for learning, Physical Education Teacher Education and continuing Professional Development, Digital Technology in PE.
As a PDHPE teacher I strongly believe that a high level of Assessment literacy will ensure the quality produced by students meets the criteria and achieves the learning outcomes being assessed. Regarding assessment policy, we are all somewhat bound by the recommendations from NESA and our own school body so it is important to look at the timing and weighting of when these tasks are delivered. In our middle school setting we have dropped the number of assessments to three per year group with a class component for each semester. In PDHPE we focussed on having a task that was mainly practical, one that was mainly theory and another that was an integration of the two.
Instructional alignment is important for PE as it is ‘not about playing games or sport, nor is it simply building fitness or accumulating a minimum amount of physical activity during the lessons. The focus should be about purposeful learning. My school has been working on assessment within a middle school context where we want students to have a choice in their learning and how they are assessed. Students prior to picking their electives for the year are engaged in a voice and choice day where they are exposed to the electives that they wish to partake in. Students are engaged in what the scope and sequence will look like including assessment. Providing students in year 8 with this opportunity prior to them taking the subject in year 9 has seen a marketed drop in numbers of students changing electives in year 9.
Assessment for learning was also something that the students thought should be part of the learning process rather than an assessment at the end of the unit. By “embedding assessment in the learning process, the principles of feed-up, feedback and feed-forward” could be incorporated into our units of work, which would increase the rigour of our assessments. The difficulty with some schools is that you still have the assessment booklet that goes to the community where assessments are scheduled for specific dates to ensure students don’t feel too overwhelmed by having too many assessments for each KLA at any one time. One way we approached this was to have an assessment “ongoing” until a point in time, usually towards the end of term to provide students with enough time to complete it.
Assessment: an opportunity for self regulation and independent learningThe research also indicated that the ultimate goal is for students to become independent and self regulated learners with a high level of qualitative feedback where student progress can be mapped. As a faculty we decided to build our sports coaching program in PASS around the assessment so that students could be part of the feed-up, feedback and feed forward learning loop.
Case study of practice: PASS coaching module
Students were asked to get into groups of four with one person being a partner. Each group would have 10 year 7 students that they would see each fortnight for 10 weeks. One pair would be coaching while the other pair would be collating feedback based on what they were observing from the coaching session. Pairs would then swap roles, coaching for feedback and vice versa until the period finished. Students would then use the time in class to learn more about coaching, reflect on their group, engage with the feedback from the other partners and the teacher and then plan their next session which would also have to increase in duration. Our next steps with this experience will be to involve our local primary schools and get our students to look at the PDHPE syllabus for that stage, and implement that into their coaching program.
Embedding student voice in your assessment planning process
The research also indicated that for students to “achieve optimum learning experiences students should be actively involved in the assessment process for example
- Determining their learning priorities
- Choosing when and how to demonstrate their learning progression
- Having a part in the construction of assessment tasks and/or criteria
- Self and peer assessment
- Dialogue with teachers and peers about assessment and it outcomes
- Reflection tasks”
As a faculty we are currently looking at our PE scope and sequence and deciding how we can incorporate the physical literacy continuum into all of our practical assessments. It provides students with a transparency of assessment and indicates where they are and where to go next. I feel as though this process “can enable learners to feel a greater sense of autonomy and help students to become independent learners” where ultimately it could motivate them to greater participation in PE lessons and lifelong physical activity.
By including students as much as possible with the learning and assessment processes we are able to create learning experiences which excite, motivate and hopefully inspire students to continue with their learning well after they have concluded their time at school. As teachers if we start to try something new then we may see the benefit not just in our students but in the delivery of our own pedagogy as well.
The role of professional learning on assessment practices
Continuing professional development was a key aspect of the position statement and rightfully so. How can we become excited about teaching particularly for understanding in a PE context if we are not dedicated to learning ourselves? The amount of times I come across something on twitter, the conversations that take place on the ACHPER NSW Facebook page or the professional development I have been exposed through ACHPER NSW courses have helped me to try new things and stay relevant to my students.
About the author
Kyle Sutton – Board Member
Kyle is enthusiastic and hardworking in his approach to education and has a specific focus on improving teacher quality through the use of engaging professional learning, engaging lessons and resources for student learning. Kyle holds a Bachelor of Education (Physical and Health Education) from the University of Wollongong. He is Head Teacher PDHPE at Sydney Secondary College.