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Improving Assessment Practices in Physical Education Settings

This is an excerpt from Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance With Web Study Guide-5th Edition by James Morrow, Jr.,Dale Mood,James Disch & Minsoo Kang.

The purpose of this chapter is not to convince people that performance-based assessments are the solution to the assessment dilemmas that teachers in kindergarten through grade 12 schools face. Performance-based assessments do expand the possible ways in which teachers can assess their students and are probably best used along with other traditional forms of assessment. For example, skills tests are a good way to look at skills in a closed situation. They are excellent formative assessments that can provide feedback to students and teachers about current levels of student ability. Consider the following example that uses both types of assessment:

Mrs. Gaylor is an experienced teacher who has selected pickleball to teach net and wall tactics. She wants her students to be able to play pickleball at the conclusion of the unit and has decided that she will use a rubric to assess game play to determine students' overall abilities to play the game during a class doubles tournament. The rubric used for assessing game play will require students to use correct form when executing shots, to strategically place the ball away from the opponent, to work with a partner, to demonstrate positive sport behaviors toward the partner and opponent, to know the rules, and to use the serve to gain an offensive advantage (e.g., not just get it over the net, but put spin on it and place it away from the opponent if possible). She will not assess individual skills during the game because often form is sacrificed as players make an attempt at an errant ball. Instead, skills tests will be used for evaluating the volley shot, the serve, and a continuous rally. All of the skills tests are done against a wall so that a student doing the skills test does not need to depend on another student to demonstrate his or her own skillfulness. Although knowledge of rules will be one of the categories on the game play rubric, an additional written test (selected response, short answer essay) will be given so that lower-skilled students who might know the rules but not be able to demonstrate them during game play will have the opportunity to demonstrate that knowledge.

On the first day of the unit, Mrs. Gaylor informs students of her expectations, demonstrates the skills tests, and provides students with the game play rubric, which is also posted on the wall so that students can refer to it when needed. During the unit, Mrs. Gaylor incorporates the skills tests into her teaching progressions. Students are allowed to take the skills tests before and after the instructional part of class and during the class tournament when they are not playing a game. Students can take the skills tests multiple times - the goal is to reach the criterion scores that Mrs. Gaylor gave when explaining the tests. At the start of class, students pick up a 3-inch × 5-inch (7.6 cm × 12.7 cm) note card that has a place to record practice trials and results (this is a participation log). Students are allowed 10 minutes at the beginning of class to dress for class and practice their skills. Those students demonstrating more effort change their clothes quickly and have more opportunity to test, practice for the skills tests, or both. By looking at the practice logs (the note cards) Mrs. Gaylor can see which skills need more work and use this information while planning her lessons. Additionally, Mrs. Gaylor is keeping track of those students passing their skills tests and knows which skills need additional instruction, the students who need more assistance, and the students who need additional challenges because they have achieved the basic level of competence.

The tasks used for instruction are designed to teach students the skills and tactics needed to play pickleball. The content of the lessons is guided by the information (data) that Mrs. Gaylor is getting from her formative assessments. Before the start of game play, a rules test is given to ensure that all students have cognitive knowledge of the rules. When students start to play games, she will observe them multiple times using the game play rubric. The areas of lower performance will be addressed in future lessons. Classes conclude with students completing exit slips that require them to answer questions about the content of the day's lesson. On the exit slip, students also have an opportunity to ask any questions about things from the class that they didn't understand, request additional instruction on an area that is proving difficult for them to learn, or ask for challenges such as additional skills or game play tactics to help them continue to improve.

As physical educators and instructors strive to improve the quality of their programs, many will heed the reform initiatives of education experts who propose that standards-based education and performance-based assessment offer great promise for enhancing the education system. To improve the preparation of physical education teachers and other physical activity specialists so that they are able to conduct meaningful assessments, our profession needs to embrace a new way of thinking about assessment. Although this chapter proposes that physical education teachers include performance-based assessment techniques in their repertoire of assessment methods, it is not suggesting that teachers completely abandon traditional, standardized testing techniques.As shown in the example, there is a need for both, depending on the purpose of the assessment. Regardless of the approach taken, teachers should use meaningful assessment in physical education class or other physical activity settings. The design and incorporation of clear, developmentally appropriate, and explicitly defined scoring rubrics are essential to ensure valid inferences about learning, consistency, and fairness.

Stiggins (1987) suggested that the most important element in designing performance-based assessments is the explicit definition of the performance criteria. Moreover, Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters (1992) stated that criteria for judging student performance lie at the heart of performance-based assessment. If performance-based assessments are to realize their promise and live up to expectations, then it is essential that high-quality assessments be accompanied by clear, meaningful, and credible scoring criteria.

The following guidelines (adapted from Gronlund 1993) provide ways to improve the credibility and usefulness of performance-based assessment in physical education.

  1. Ensure that assessments are congruent with the intended outcomes and instructional practices of the class.
  2. Recognize that, together, observation and informed judgment with written results compose a legitimate and meaningful method of assessment.
  3. Use an assessment procedure that will provide the information needed to make a judgment about the intended student learning.
  4. Use authentic tasks in a realistic setting, thus providing contextualized meaning to the assessment.
  5. Design and incorporate clear, explicitly defined scoring rubrics with the assessment.
  6. Provide scoring rubrics and evaluative criteria to students and other interested persons.
  7. Be as objective as possible in observing, judging, and recording performance.
  8. Record assessment results during the observation.
  9. Use multiple assessments whenever possible.
  10. Use assessment to enhance student learning.

A balanced approach to assessment is the prudent path to follow. The issue is not whether one form of assessment is intrinsically better than another. No assessment model is suited for every purpose. The real issue is determining what type of performance indicator best serves the purpose of the assessment and then choosing an appropriate assessment method that is suitable for providing this type of information.

Mastery Item 14.10

Identify the types of student learning that Mrs. Gaylor can document using the procedure just explained. How do traditional skill assessments work with performance-based assessments to enhance student learning?

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