Physical Education Meets Teacher Evaluation: Supporting Physical Educators in Formal Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

By van der Mars, Hans; McNamee, Jeff et al. | Physical Educator, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Physical Education Meets Teacher Evaluation: Supporting Physical Educators in Formal Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes


van der Mars, Hans, McNamee, Jeff, Timken, Gay, Physical Educator


Assessment of student learning outcomes is a central teaching function (e.g., NASPE Assessment Task Force, 2008; National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2002; Society of Health and Physical Educators [SHAPE America], 2010a, 2011; Steffen & Grosse, 2003; Stork, 2007) and a standard for beginning and advanced physical educators (SHAPE America, 2010b; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2014). Yet Lund and Veal (2008) noted that school physical education programs lack a culture of assessment. This is problematic in today's climate of high-stakes teacher evaluation practices where teachers' job security is, in part, tied directly to their students' achievement. Despite the demonstrated problem of value-added models (i.e., lack of fairness, reliability and validity; e.g., American Educational Research Association, 2015; American Statistical Association, 2014; Amrein-Beardsley, 2008, 2012; Berliner, 2013, 2014; Lavigne, 2014; Pivovarova, Broatch, & Amrein-Beardsley, 2014), 43 states now require objective measures of student achievement to be included in teacher evaluations, and student growth is the preponderant criterion in teacher evaluations in 16 states (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2015). Moreover, school administrators feel ill-prepared to make use of such teacher evaluation protocols in physical education contexts (Norris, van der Mars, Kulinna, & Beardsley, 2017).

The recent passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) could impact school physical education in several ways. First, physical education is now seen as a subject central to students' "well-rounded education," and thus (at least in theory) ESSA places it on the same level with other "core" subjects (i.e., Mathematics and English Language Arts). Second, states and school districts are still required to implement teacher and principal evaluation systems that are partially based on evidence of student achievement. Third, at least 20% of Title IV funding associated with ESSA and being distributed by states must fund "safe and healthy" schools, and 20% must go to subjects considered part of a "well-rounded education." Finally, physical education teachers are expected to develop credible evidence of student learning outcomes.

In K-12 education, the focus has shifted from "assessment of learning" to "assessment for learning" (e.g., Black & Wiliam, 1998a; Broadfoot & Black, 2004; Hay, 2006; Wiliam, Lee, Harrison, & Black, 2004). Hay (2006) argued that assessment has two central purposes: (a)assessment for accountability and (b) assessment for learning. Assessment for learning is associated with end-of-unit "summative" assessment and used primarily by teachers to assign final grades. Assessment for learning seeks to inform students (and teachers!) regarding their progress in learning the subject matter throughout a unit of instruction and school year (Black & Wiliam, 1998b). This is analogous to formative assessment and shifts the focus toward how teachers can best support students throughout the learning process (Broadfoot & Black, 2004). Throughout this paper, the terms learning and performance will be used interchangeably.

Several researchers have called for greater emphasis on formative assessment for learning where teachers collect data throughout the learning process on students' progress (e.g., Baker & Gordon, 2014; Hay, 2006; van der Mars & Harvey, 2010). This shift has come about as a result of an attempt to "align" curriculum, instruction, and assessment (Lund & Tannehill, 2014; Veal, 1992, 1995).

Few physical educators have integrated formal assessment for learning into their day-to-day teaching (Shepard, 2001). Moreover, they have reported that formal assessment of (or for) student learning is too time consuming and has little value, and/or that they lack the necessary knowledge to perform such assessments (Kneer, 1986). Beyond the typical managerial indicators of attendance, dress, and on-time behavior, physical educators mostly use a mix of student attitude, participation, sportsmanship, and effort as primary performance indicators for grades (e. …

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