The Importance of Assessment within Physical Education

By Nye, Susan; Dubay, Corinne et al. | VAHPERD Journal, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

The Importance of Assessment within Physical Education


Nye, Susan, Dubay, Corinne, Gilbert, Lynne, Wajciechowski, Misti, VAHPERD Journal


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.

   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.

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. …

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