Assessment in Physical Education Research Paper Starter

Assessment in Physical Education

This article provides an overview of assessment in physical education. The discussion includes information about the need for assessment, the benefits and challenges of implementing assessment into the physical education program, different types of assessment, and how to implement assessments into the physical education program. The peer and portfolio assessment processes are discussed at greater length followed by information about the importance of informing students' primary caregivers about assessment results.

Keywords Affective Domain; Assessment; Cognitive Domain; Criterion-referenced; Grades; Peer Assessment; Physical Domain; Physical Education; Portfolio Assessment; Self Assessment; Teacher-Directed Assessment


Physical education teachers continually face the challenge of assessing their students' learning. Through this assessment process teachers gain the information or evidence that they need to appropriately grade student learning in the affective, physical, and cognitive domains of physical education (Gallo, Sheehy, Patton, & Griffin, 2006). The physical domain in physical education focuses on the development of basic locomotor skills (elementary level) and sport skills and physical fitness (secondary level) (Gosset, 2007). The locomotor skills that are included in the physical domain include walking, running, hopping, horizontal and vertical jumping, sliding, skipping, galloping, leaping, punting, dribbling, kicking, striking, and throwing (Orlich, 2002). The affective domain addresses physical education students' behavior, attitudes, attributes, and dispositions during class (Gallo, 2003). The cognitive domain of physical education addresses the acquisition of knowledge related to fitness, sport, other activities and the application of that knowledge. The feedback that is provided to students and teachers about learning progress in these areas can be used by the teacher to inform instruction and promote changes in instruction to improve the effectiveness and direction of teaching (Gallo, et al., 2006). Feedback offers students the opportunity to become more aware of their own progress and engages them and motivates them to become more active learners (Gallo, et al., 2006). In an educational system that is often focused on student assessment to determine the strength or weakness of its programs, assessment provides physical education teachers an opportunity to demonstrate accountability, credibility and support for these programs (Gallo, et al., 2006).

Types of Assessment

When assessing student learning, it is important to gather multiple sources of information that directly measure or examine the target behavior, focus on quality of performance, utilize criterion-referenced rather than normative-referenced measurement, and to involve students in the development of assessments (NASPE, 1995). Physical education teachers can incorporate a variety of assessments or one assessment format into their class instruction and program. According to Melograno (1997), these assessment techniques include:

• Teacher-directed assessments, which are achievement tests, observational inventories, and written tests. Teacher-directed assessments directly measure a student's motor skill, cognitive, affective, and psychomotor ability (Melograno, 1997).

• Peer assessments, which involve students acting individually or as a group to assess their peers. Peer assessments are advantageous as they help students to develop and administer an assessment, learn concern for others, a sense of responsibility, and learn how to give constructive feedback (Melograno, 1997).

• Self assessments, which involve the students critically and validly assessing their own performance/ability based on personal goals, teacher-derived goals, and/or peer-standards (Melograno, 1997), and

• Portfolio assessment -- an ongoing feedback system that serves to document student progress and learning through a variety of work samples and examples of learning (Melograno, 1997).

Determining the Correct Assessment Method

While there are a variety of assessments to choose from, physical education teachers must determine what barriers they are faced with and what assessments would most appropriately fit with such contextual constraints and be most appropriate for their students. Teachers are faced with barriers to assessment that must be considered, including large class sizes, limited class time (length and frequency), and limited preparation time (Johnson, 2005). Physical education teachers should choose the assessment based on the following guiding questions:

• "Does the assessment assess the intended performance outcome?"

• "Is the assessment developmentally appropriate?"

• "Are the identified criteria for success?"

• "Is the assessment part of the learning task?" and

• "Is the assessment practical?" (Johnson, 2005, p. 46).

To determine whether or not the assessment measures the correct outcome, the physical education teacher must be clear on what performance outcome he/she would like to assess, what information the assessment will provide, and are there any variables in the assessment that make the results contingent upon the performance of another student (Johnson, 2005). Once these questions have been answered, the teacher will have properly determined if the assessment of choice will measure the intended performance outcome. Teachers must also critically review an assessment to determine whether or not it is developmentally appropriate for the age group/developmental level of student that the teacher will be assessing (Johnson, 2005). If a developmentally inappropriate assessment is used, the results may either be inflated or very low with scores that do not meet the standards for a successful assessment. Students should also be informed of the criteria that the teacher will use in their assessment as this provides the students with information about what they need to work toward, thus focusing their attention and motivation (Johnson, 2005).

It has been recommended that the assessment process be a part of or embedded in the learning task and instruction of the class (Johnson, 2005). When assessments are embedded into the learning process, the students become more comfortable with the assessment process as it is taking place in a natural setting, students are in a more relaxed cognitive state, the instructor is actively supervising student behavior, all students are active, and the teacher is able to take advantage of limited time (Johnson, 2005; Orlich, 2002). Teachers must determine if the assessment is practical for their class by determining if the assessment can be embedded in instructional tasks, if the information obtained from the assessment is worthy of the time spent, if the assessment can be administered in a reasonable amount of time, and if the data can be recorded and organized efficiently and effectively (Johnson, 2005). Following these guidelines can help the physical educator to make responsible and informed decisions when choosing the appropriate assessments he/she will use in the class.


Once appropriate assessments are chosen and implemented, teachers must validate the assessment by collecting data and using the assessment in the manner in which it is intended (Allen, 2002). An assessment can be validated by the teacher videotaping a particular assessment and collecting the assessment data (Allen, 2002). The physical education teacher can then send the video and collected data to a consultant who will conduct an independent assessment by watching the videotape and scoring the performances using the same rubric...

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