The primary goal of assessment should be seen as the enhancement of
learning, rather than simply the documentation of learning" (NASPE,
1995). However, when physical educators assess students on their dress,
attendance, effort, or attitude what is it that we are enhancing
(Johnson, 2008). Do these assessment criteria really show us what the
student has learned or what skill criteria they have met? Of course
not...These criteria tell the physical educator that a student can get
dressed, can show up for class, can participate, and/or has a good or
poor attitude. These criteria tell us nothing regarding the
students' development within the psychomotor, cognitive, affective
or health-related fitness domains. If the goal of a physical educator is
to enhance learning through student assessment then it is important for
the assessment to measure objective criteria. This paper provides
descriptions for what is assessment, why teachers should assess, and the
steps a teacher can take to create appropriate assessments.
Assessment can be defined as any "planned technique used to
measure, judge or diagnose a student's achievement and to make
inferences based on that evidence for a variety of purposes, including
planning" (Doolittle, 1996). Physical educators should use
assessments that are authentic, focus on the process, and are formative.
Authentic assessment is designed to take place in a real-life setting
and emphasize validity, fairness and the enhancement of learning
(Panicucci, 2002). Process assessments focus on the form of the
movement, not the successful completion of attempts. Formative
assessments provide information to provide feedback to teachers and
students about the students' progress toward a learning goal.
NASPE (1998) cited appropriate and inappropriate practices related
to assessment in secondary physical education. The excerpts below are
from the NASPE position statement regarding appropriate practices for
high school physical education. Teachers can read the statements and
then evaluate if they are adhering to the stated appropriate practices
regarding assessment in physical education.
Why should assessment occur in physical education?
When teachers are asked questions regarding assessment in physical
education, common responses are heard. However, these responses are
normally linked to why the teacher is not assessing. Some of the teacher
responses include "I don't have time, my classes are too big,
I don't have enough equipment, or I don't know how to
assess". If a teacher is not assessing how would they know what
their students are learning? The days for finding excuses for why
assessment in physical education does not occur have passed. Assessment
in physical education is a key accountability measure for both the
student and the teacher. Assessment of students should be viewed as an
integral part of instruction not an add-on. The conducting of
assessments during physical education instruction provide relevant
information to teachers, students, parents, and administrators by
communicating what the students are expected to learn and what learning
has taken place (Hensley, 1997). On-going assessments provide a reliable
reflection of students' progress, promote consistency with grading
between teacher and students, and create objective data that can be
shared with the students, parents, and/or administrators (Anderson &
Goode, 1997; Wright & van der Mars, 2004).
Assessing within a physical education environment has many benefits
for the teachers and the students. First, teachers can use assessments
as a guide for what they want their students to learn. Assessment guides
instruction for quality and helps to improve students' ability to
acquire knowledge (Wright & Mars, 2004). Second, teachers can use
assessments to help re-define goals and objectives to meet the needs of
all their students (Smith, 1997). Depending on how the students perform
on an assessment, teachers can adjust unit plans to see what critical
elements (basic movements that are needed for students to perform a
skill successfully) really need to be taught (Lund, 1997; Wright &
van der Mars, 2004). Finally, teachers can use assessments to be
self-reflective regarding their teaching practices. A teacher can
evaluate an assessment to see if the students really 'get' the
information or if the content needs to be re-taught.
Assessment is crucial for students. It provides feedback to the
student on their progress and mastery of the skill. Assessment allows
students to understand, and interpret information regarding their
performance. Utilizing various types of assessments allows each student
an opportunity to excel. Students develop an understanding of their own
strengths and weaknesses, thus allowing them to gain an understanding of
how to improve. Students actually develop a cognitive understanding of
all aspects and components of each skill being assessed. For example,
the use of peer assessment requires the student-evaluator to understand
the skill components cognitively. By developing cognitive understanding
of skills, students gain a better understanding of the components
necessary for proper psychomotor execution.
Creating appropriate assessments in physical education
If teachers are not trained in how to create and administer
assessments, it can be a daunting task. Here are several suggestions if
you are just beginning the assessment process with your students. First,
think of the purpose for using the assessment. When deciding on an
assessment to use with students, teachers should select ones that can
provide ongoing feedback to students and teachers. The assessment should
be meaningful, authentic, and positive (McCraken, 1994). Teachers should
view the assessment as a tool to direct both student learning and
instruction. Second, once you know the purpose for the using the
assessment, find an assessment that has already been created. Use
available assessment resources from www.pecentral.com or from NASPE
publications. Table 1 provides some examples of different types of
assessment by domain that could be used with secondary students.
Third, below are questions to ask once you find an assessment.
These questions are meant as a guide to help select the most appropriate
1. Does the assessment match specific instructional intentions?
2. Does the assessment adequately represent the content and skills
you expect students to attain?
3. Does the assessment enable students to demonstrate their
progress and capabilities?
4. Does the assessment use authentic, real-world tasks?
Finally, select one class in which to administer the assessment. By
selecting one class, a teacher can work out the kinks with the
administration, collection, and input of assessment data with a smaller
group of students. Once the assessment has been refined, then the
assessment can be administered to all of your students.
Teachers must show what their students know and can do within a
physical education setting. Assessment forces teachers to be involved in
each student's attainment of specific, meaningful outcomes.
Assessment, by nature, creates more organized, more informed, and more
involved teachers. The assessment information collected serves many
purposes and the benefits for both the student and the teacher are
overwhelming. The student benefits for assessment include 1) a measure
of students' knowledge, skill, and understanding of content, 2) a
way to evaluate student growth, 3) an improvement in the quality of the
student's performance, and 4) a way to provide individual feedback
to students. The benefits for teachers includes 1) the ability to
reflect on teaching practices, 2) demonstrating the effectiveness of the
unit, 3) informing parents of their student's progress, and 4)
providing objective data to administrators.
In other academic subject areas, a students' progress is
monitored and assessed regularly. However, in physical education there
are teachers that choose not to assess or assess only on subjective
information. Choosing to not assess within a physical education setting
regardless of the obstacles is not an option. When a teacher chooses not
to assess they are literally saying their profession is not important
and should not be valued. Assessment of student learning is one way to
gain the support of administrators, parents, and colleagues. Indeed,
gaining support will take time as will planning effective assessment
strategies. For those teachers where assessment is new, there will be a
period of trial and error to endure. However, it is important to keep
student learning as the main focus, and encourage your colleagues
regarding the value of assessment within the physical education
profession. The appropriate assessment of student learning within
physical education is a win win for all involved.
Anderson, A. & Goode, R. (1997). Assessment informs
instruction. JOPERD, 68, 42-50.
Doolittle, S. (1996). Practical assessment for physical education
teachers. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 67 (8),
Hensley, L. (1997). Alternative assessment for physical education.
JOPERD, 68, 19-25.
Lund, J. (1997). Authentic assessment. JOPERD, 68, 25-30.
Johnson, R. (2008). Overcoming resistance to achievement-based unit
grading in secondary physical education. JOPERD, 79, 46-49.
McCraken, B. (1994). It's Not Just Gym Anymore. Teaching
Secondary Students How to Be Active For Life. Champaign, IL: Human
NASPE (1998). Appropriate practices for high school physical
education. National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
Panicucci, J. (2002). Adventure curriculum for Physical Education.
Middle School. Beverly, MA: Project Adventure, Inc.
Smith, T. (1997). Authentic assessment: using a portfolio card in
physical education. JOPERD, 68, 46-53.
Wright, M. & van der Mars, H. (2004). Blending assessment into
instruction. JOPERD, 75, 29-35.
Susan Nye, PhD, James Madison University
Corinne Dubay, Monacan High School, Chesterfield County Public
Lynne Gilbert, Elizabeth Davis Middle School, Chesterfield County
Misti Wajciechowski, Bailey Bridge Middle School, Chesterfield
County Public Schools
Appropriate Practice: Teacher design assessments in relation to the
goals and objectives for the instructional program and planned
outcomes for student achievement. Assessment is on-going, not just
at quarter report time. Students are aware of the criteria, related
to accomplishment of a skill, knowledge, or disposition, and the
rubric that will be used to assess performance. Decisions about
instruction and evaluation of student progress are based on
continuous systematic observations and assessment of student
progress in relation to the final product, as opposed to one
summative evaluation. Assessment is an integral part of planning,
student feedback and goal setting.
Inappropriate Practice: Students are not regularly assessed or are
assessed based on isolated measurements. Students are assessed
using inconsistent, arbitrary measures that do not reflect the
instructional objectives or learning opportunities. Often
assessment is limited to attendance, dressing for activity,
compliance with class rules, and subjective observation. Teachers
use rubrics and criteria but do not share them with students so the
students are not clear on what they need to be able to do.
Table 1. Types of assessments by domain
Psychomotor Cognitive Affective Health-Related
Skills test Written tests Interviews Fitness Test
Checklist Written Questionnaires Fitness Journals
Task Sheets Oral Reflective Paper Fitness Logs
Self-Check Presentations/ Journal Entries Class Projects
Rating Sheets Individual or Portfolios
Charts Exit Sheets