The importance of assessment within physical education.
Curriculum-based assessment (Methods)
Curriculum-based assessment (Usage)
Physical education and training (Evaluation)
Nye, Susan
Dubay, Corinne
Gilbert, Lynne
Wajciechowski, Misti
Pub Date:
Name: VAHPERD Journal Publisher: Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education and Dance Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Sports and fitness Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education and Dance ISSN: 0739-4586
Date: Spring, 2009 Source Volume: 30 Source Issue: 1
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
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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 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 assessment.

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), 35-37.

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 Kinetics.

NASPE (1998). Appropriate practices for high school physical education. National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Reston, VA.

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 Schools

Lynne Gilbert, Elizabeth Davis Middle School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

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
  Sheets          Demonstrations
Rating Sheets   Individual or                         Portfolios
                  Group Projects
Incident        Officiating
  Charts        Exit Sheets
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