Assessment in Physical Education: A Teacher's Guide to the Issues

By Bob Carroll | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

What Can Teachers Assess in Physical Education?

Why is 'What' an Issue?

Teachers know what to assess, surely this is not an issue? However 'what can teachers assess in PE?' is not as simple a question as it seems. Life in classrooms, sports halls and playing fields is complex. Generally PE teachers do know what to assess for teaching purposes, but most of the objectives of PE raise issues in practical terms when it comes to their achievement and pupils' assessment. Extrapolating different skills, personal qualities and the varying elements and contributions within a performance and from each other, and providing evidence for them, is not an easy matter.

Before the advent of examinations, ROA and the National Curriculum when assessment was not an issue in PE, life was much simpler. It appeared that many teachers taught and then decided what to assess (Carroll, 1976a). In this model of teaching-assessment, the teacher decides to teach an activity, say volleyball, and will teach the skills needed for the game, such as the serve and dig, and then assess the pupils' techniques, their skills in applying them and overall performance. This worked well enough for feedback purposes and in the teaching situation. However these performances also included effort, attitude and personal characteristics as an integral part of the performance. These could be assessed generally for school team selection or reports and used or ignored as the teacher thought fit. Reports usually required an overall grade for attainment and another for effort and these were normally on a five-point norm reference system (Carroll, 1976b and 1980). Carroll (1976a) points out the importance of pupils' effort in the teachers' scheme of teaching, assessment and evaluation.

In the era of examinations, ROA and the National Curriculum the approaches of teach first then decide what to assess, of norm referencing and the dominance of effort are inadequate. For the new developments the teaching-assessment model demands an objectives type, criterion-reference model. Here the objectives and the criteria for assessment must be precise and clearly identified, and related to each other. PE assessments had often been characterized by their vagueness and generality, so it is not surprising that many teachers found difficulty in being precise enough when it came to making CSE Mode 3 submissions or including assessment practices in PE syllabuses. A problem for PE teachers, which many of their colleagues in other subjects avoid by concentrating solely on cognitive skills, is that many of the objectives are not easily assessable, some are long term,

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