The Importance of Assessment in Physical Education

It may be fairly obvious how educators can implement assessment and data when it comes to Mathematics or Language Arts; however looking through the lens of Physical Education may seem more difficult. There are a good deal of educators and school administrators who think assessing and tracking data on students during Physical Education class is unnecessary or even impossible. I, and many others in education, however, am in the other camp. I do see merit in using these tools with students when it comes to their personal fitness and wellness.

I have been working in and around Physical Education, Fitness, and Wellness for my entire 20 year career (and counting) as an educator and administrator. One thing I can tell you is that education is always evolving, as it should.  Children are learning at a much faster and furious pace. As such, along with that rapid pace comes rising expectations for demonstrated skills by these children.  Since they are learning faster they are also being expected to know more and “show what they know” in a more formal manner.  This 21 century learning is heavily embedded in data and the students exhibiting growth in their skill set.  By osmosis, these same expectations carry over into the realm of Wellness classes.  I say it is great that they do carry over; because with all the new technology and best practices available now, it is much easier and efficient to show this type of growth in PE and Fitness classes around the country.

These assessments actually can provide many benefits to you as the teacher as well as your students.  Assessments and PE truly make a great partnership. As with any symbiotic relationship, they really do need each other. These assessments and the data they reveal, can be utilized in a multitude of ways in order to help encourage and support your school’s PE/Wellness program.  Still not sure how?  Take a look at these brief examples…

Assessment in P.E. Examples:

What better way to demonstrate growth in PE than to develop a Fitness or Wellness class/program along with a series of benchmarks and movements along the way to help children improve?  Education is about learning and improving your skill set (cognitive or physical). How perfectly this correlates to PE!

Think about it, students enter your PE class, and then are presented with a series of challenges or “tests” to develop a foundational baseline, a baseline that is easily trackable and presentable.  Teachers then discuss with students individually where they are at relative to the program or personal goals and then send them off on individual plans and paths to improve their baseline scores and data.  Every move they make in class from then on is designed to help them improve their “fitness, fundamentals and fun” factors.  The journey begins!

Add to this programming the intrinsic factor of personal motivation and you are off and running even faster.  I have been around long enough to notice that once you add a quantifiable component, such as a number of crunches, pounds lifted, distance run time, enhanced flexibility, etc…, the internal competitive fires begin to be stoked.  People naturally want to improve, especially if someone is “keeping score.” I have seen very few K-12 students not want to better their scores for their benchmarks, no matter what the category.  The kids love trying to improve and surpass their own scores.  As long as you keep the scores individual in nature then I believe this is a great way to motivate your students to improve their fitness levels.  They will jump at the chance to improve and the end result is kids being more active in you class. It’s a win for everyone! Gopher has a wide selection of Physical Education assessment equipment including pedometers, heart rate monitors and push-up testers.

Assessments are a necessary component in today’s world of education.  Teachers and students need to be able to demonstrate growth of student skills.  Armed with that premise, assessment and Physical Education really should not exist without each other In today’s data-driven world, what better way to demonstrate students’ skills as well as motivate and encourage lifelong movement goals; inspire activity; and ultimately demonstrate improvement than to track the measurable progress of school children?

Peter is the Director of Athletics at Milford Public Schools in Milford, MA. Previously he was the Elementary Principal & K-12 Wellness Coordinator in Canton, MA and was the Massachusetts K-12 Wellness Director of the Year in 2011-2012.

4 COMMENTS

  1. So what do you give a number grade on? At my school, I see students 1x a week for 50 minutes for 10 weeks and they rotate to 2 other PE teachers. 3 days of PE per week all year.

    1 teacher teaches Fitness, another outdoor activities and 1 the last teacher teaches tea/individual sports. We assess skills but it’s hard to place a grade seeing a student 1x a week. We give a completion grade for peer evaluations on skills.

    It would be great to give a written test or a fun project but without seeing them more than 1x it’s hard to see improvement. We don’t want to grade on dressing out as that’s a given. So do we grade on participation.

    I would love to hear some ideas. I love the SPARK curriculum but it’s impossible to complete a single unit 1x a week in middle school.

  2. Hi Jay,
    Thanks for checking in and collaborating. I love that your students have physical education all year long, that is great for them! The rotating teacher does pose an interesting assessment challenge, however I’ve seen and experienced similar situations. With some professional collaborations and record-keeping I do think you and your department can develop a thorough assessment protocol. I would suggest implementing the 2 following procedures:

    1 > I would recommend implementing a minimum of 2 written assessments per trimester (so each PE teacher would administer 2 written quizzes or similar assessments.) It is important for the students to demonstrate cognitive understanding of whatever topic, rules, strategies, etc…that your department is teaching. These quizzes could be as short as 5 quick questions and probably no more than 10 so that you can quickly get moving once the quizzes have been administered.

    2 > We utilize a “3-2-1” grading system for every student for every class. At the end of every class our PE Teachers assign a participation/effort grade to every student for each class. Students are made aware that the 3-2-1 system is in place, with the following subjective point distribution: 3 = Outstanding Effort and Participation, 2 = Good Effort and Participation, 1 = Limited Effort and Participation, and a 0 = no effort and participation whatsoever. You can then determine how many cumulative points combined with their quiz grades = A, B, C, etc…

    Please let us know what you think and how your collaborations work out with your teaching colleagues, it is great that you are looking to find a systematic way to assign grades in Physical Education!

  3. Hey, great article!!

    Can assessments be discouraging to students as well? Some may have low self esteem, and afraid to measure their current potential. Is it common to see?

  4. Hi Martin, thanks for checking in, you definitely bring up an interesting, thoughtful, and valuable question. I think any time that assessments are utilized those assessments have the ability to bolster, baseline, or bring down self esteem for sure. However, we subscribe to the philosophy that if the content we are teaching is important, we should strive to be sure that our students have learned the information that we have disseminated. We try to do this in a few ways:

    We try to utilize 2 types of assessments >the 1st is cognitive quizzes where we check for understanding at the end of our units to determine that students understand how to be informed spectators (we want them to know how to keep score of the activities/games, understand the flow (quarters, innings, halves, etc…) and observe or explain how they activity/game is played or performed. The 2nd assessment would be fitness components where we don’t measure their skill ability (some PE programs do assess this) but we try to assess how well they are working to their own individual fitness capacity, basically that they are working at or within their own personal parameters…this is a great individual opportunity to raise their self esteem as it is personal and individual.

    I think as long the units, activities, or games are taught in a manner that focuses on major concepts and/or rules then the students will tend to score pretty well as long as they are paying attention (cognitive) and working to their own ability (fitness) most of the time. This would then bring PE/Wellness/Fitness classes on par with the majority of other educational disciplines. We also emphasize and remind our students that learning information and being able to explain or demonstrate what you’ve learned is a great life skill that will help them all through their lives.

    Overall, I love your question and we believe that PE/Wellness classes are a great place to build and raise self esteem. The fact that this is a focus for you would candidate to me that you are already doing an excellent job protecting and raising your students’ self esteem, keep up the great work! 🙂

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