Objective & Authentic PE Assessment – Some Considerations.

I cast my mind back a few years when I was teaching Senior Physical Education which in QLD is a board subject and contributes to university entry (similar to UK’s A Level PE). 4 sports/recognised competitive physical activities are chosen with students spending 6 months on each spread out over the two year course (Gr 11 &12). Your grade for the subject is split 50/50, fifty percent theory and fifty percent physical. As you can imagine, for the purpose of objectivity the physical grades are scrutinised heavily. You must use a criteria similar to the one below. At the end of a year the grades are sent, peer monitored and verified by a panel, a video of evidence displaying and narrating the student performance is also required. So far in my 11 years of teaching PE this is the most conclusive and objective method of assessing movement I’ve seen and used. But…

An example assessment rubric for golf.

I feel like this assessment works well in the conceptual realms of sport. If we try to apply something similar to a ‘non-sport’ curriculum like many good ES PE curriculum are, we may run into problems. The fact that the Senior PE curriculum is based around a choice of many familiar sports means that it is almost straight away less subjective in that there is more evidence for comparison. Evidence of appropriate skills, tactics, strategy etc.  However if you look at an ES curriculum the range of concepts may be similar, however, the skills and concepts are taught by the teacher and implemented by the students very differently. Often within a highly modified performance environment. Sidetrack – Maybe we should put together a PE standardised test and sort this stuff out. Bahahaha. No but seriously, how do elementary teachers know definitively that Student X is a B yet Student Y is a C. Do ES PE teachers all around the world create in depth criteria sheets for each skill and concept and mark each student continuously on these so as to ensure that assessment remains authentic and up to date? I don’t know about that. Even if you were superdooper organised with your criteria my guess is that students have a single opportunity, handful at best to demonstrate their skills and meet the ‘criteria’ set. If they have a bad day or lesson then their results reflect that. Or maybe PE teachers record every lesson then go back and watch the film in the evening. Or teachers could assess every student, every lesson, probably leaving no time for teaching. Hmmm. What a conundrum! My point is, if we were to assess the performance of movement accurately and objectively at an ES level it would take so much time away from the teaching that eventually the physical activity, learning opportunity and fun is lost from our subject. Lucky for me I don’t think that the performance of movement needs to be the focus of assessment at an ES level. As I’ve eluded to earlier it’s almost impossible to do properly anyway.

I can see the argument. But it’s only assessed to the ability level of the kids you are teaching. It doesn’t need to be that complex and complicated. You grade a HS kid differently to an ES kid. All fair comments but how do we decide what is to be assessed and what is not. How do we as a PE faculty decide what a student in Gr 3 should be able to do compared to a student in Gr 5? Do we just decide as a school what ‘grade level’ or satisfactory looks like? Then from there we extrapolate out to what good and outstanding looks like. Or maybe we just wait to see what the cohort is capable of from year to year and then apply the good old bell curve principle.

None of these ideas sit well with me. What is starting to make some sense though is the shift in focus to a more self reflective and conceptual focus. The basic idea is that students are asked to reflect and rate their performance. This rating will then be compared to their actual performance by the teacher. An accurate self assessment more often or not will show an accurate conceptual understanding of the movement being assessed.

Our custom made Plagnets

This way the teacher isn’t solely assessing the physical performance nor are they assessing the physical performance in absence of the conceptual piece. This type of assessment also becomes a valuable learning experience when compared to the direct feedback of a teacher centred assessment process. With the help of Plickers and some Plagnets I hope to keep this a time efficient and student centred process.



  1. Martin Brown

    Our PE team is using magnets for self-assessment and it’s working really well. But I love the idea of being able to scan the group and have the results quickly analyzed and collated. Very helpful for quick transitions between classes.
    What about for rubrics that have more than 4 points? I’m thinking about the IB 7-point rubric. Would that be feasible?

  2. Post

    Hi Martin. Thanks for your comment!! 4 options max per question. Could you spread the 7 point rubric across 2 questions so that you have a total of 8 options?

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