Physical education matters when it comes to improving academic performance in the classroom, not to mention the positive effects on both short-term and long-term health. If you are a science nerd like myself and want some reports containing hard evidence to support this statement, I recommend reading these reports published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and UNICEF.
In order to carve out a place for physical education in a modern academic setting, we need to move towards implementing more formalized assessment that is both objective and fair for all students. Academia thrives on standardized testing, one critical aspect physical education has struggled to meet given how unique it is in comparison to all other core subjects.
After researching physical education curricula across North America and several other resources, I have compiled five common areas that are typically assessed within holistic physical education programs:
- Movement Technique
- Knowledge or Cognitive Understanding
- Behavioural Outcomes
- Physical Activity Levels
- Health-related Fitness
I will briefly outline each core area to expand upon what framework may be used to implement physical education assessment in your school district.
- This is where we assess if our students are performing fundamental movement skills with proper technique. There are surprisingly few effective tools to help educators assess fundamental movement skill technique. Your best bet is to find a way to demonstrate the skill, either yourself or through the use of video, then provide students with 1-2 basic movement cues to focus on. Then assess whether or not they are able to demonstrate these movement cues back to you. For a more detailed description of how to fairly assess movement, please read my blog post about assessing movement skill competency.
Knowledge or Cognitive Understanding
- This is where we assess if students cognitively understand concepts and strategies related to movement, sports and physical activity. You can do this through more traditional Q and A style of assessments done in other subjects. For example, asking students questions about ways to improve balance, the rules of basketball, and what are the benefits of being physically active.
- Let's face it, sport builds personal character. An elementary school phys ed class is one of the only situations where we ask students to work cooperatively with others on a regular basis. Basic behavioural assessment can include questions such as: does the student follow the rules, treat others respectfully while playing games, and make an effort to participate?
Physical Activity Levels
- This is where step trackers and heart rate monitors can provide some useful information when it comes to physical education assessment. In order to receive the health benefits of physical activity, it is important to ensure kids are engaging in games and activities. This can be monitored by step count and sustained increases in heart rate.
- Fitness tests should focus on measuring student improvements in aerobic fitness, flexibility and body strength. It is important to assess based on individual improvement over time rather than the absolute number achieved. This makes fitness testing more fair as it does not discriminate based on genetics.
More detailed information of different assessment theory for physical education can be found here. For more examples of how assessment fits into a well-designed physical education lesson, download our FREE physical education lesson plans here.