Computer Organized Physical Education

By Lambdin, Dolly | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 1997 | Go to article overview

Computer Organized Physical Education


Lambdin, Dolly, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


This is the final article in this three-part feature on assessment. In October, the series began with two articles - an introductory article on practical assessment for physical education teachers and an article on how two physical education teachers use assessment in their programs. The series continued in the November/December issue with an article describing an university student teaching assessment project and another on some effective assessment techniques that can be used by teachers. In this final article, Dolly Lambdin describes a computer-organized data management system designed to improve record keeping, planning, and communication.

"I know what I want students to know and be able to do. But how do I know where to start teaching, when I don't know what knowledge and skills they already possess?"

The ability to gather, compile, and portray appropriate data on children's learning is becoming increasingly important as outcomes-based education and authentic assessment continue to gather support. With outcomes-based curricular models, the teacher is required to document each student's mastery of standard content. The authentic assessment movement encourages teachers to use tasks that are meaningful to students to gather information about individual strengths and needs. While both these educational reforms are important, the specialist teacher with 400 or more students may find it too difficult even to collect the data, much less use it. With traditional recording methods, much of the usefulness of the data is lost in the pages of the grade book.

Computerized data management systems, however, can provide the opportunity to use this data to plan lessons, communicate with students and parents, and perform meaningful program evaluations. Whether it is accountability, outcomes-based curriculum models, or just a desire to offer appropriate instruction that drives your interest in keeping track of students' learning, computerized data management may hold some answers for you. This article is designed to (1) review the need for and appropriate use of individual assessments, (2) explain how computerized data management can combat the logistical difficulties of making use of the data, and (3) present Project COPE (Computer Organized Physical Education) - a computerized data management system designed to improve record keeping, planning, and communication.

The Problem

As we all know, physical education specialists teach 200 to 600 students per day in 25- to 45-minute periods. Many of us teach each child for 3 to 7 years. Although there are tremendous advantages to seeing children develop over time, keeping track of individual student progress with classes coming one after another all day long is extremely difficult. In the past, knowing which students in each class needed additional help or practice on specific learning objectives was a data management nightmare! Dedicated teachers developed personal recording systems to manage information for a few specific areas of performance, but this meant individually reviewing the class records of 11 to 20 classes for each objective considered. Many teachers use computer programs to manipulate fitness data, but these programs are generally restricted to tracking specific fitness variables. Although they are useful in determining winners of fitness awards and calculating class statistics, they usually do not allow teachers to do individual manipulations of the data (such as identifying which students need additional work in a specific area), or to track other variables or skills. For the most part dedicated physical education teachers have had to resign themselves to providing lessons based on group needs and the teacher's personal memory rather than individual needs and data.

In my own teaching I struggled with the following frustrations:

I spent long hours poring over data in my grade book trying to determine which students needed help in which skills.

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