When we think about standard tests in education, let alone physical education, it may send some of us into a cold sweat. Thinking of the days when coopers 12 minute run, flexed arm hang, and push up tests were a common occurrence in physical education classrooms. A joy for few - but pain, stress, and anxiety for many. Standards however, provide us feedback of where we are comparing to expectations of others our age, size, gender etc. Do standards have a place in today’s physical education classes? Have they been replaced by participation or simply showing up? Has the pendulum swung so far away from standards that our only measure of the health of our nation is obesity rates and body mass index (BMI)?
Objective Measures (Science)
BMI is a simple measure of height to weight ratio which then allows us to fit individuals into a weight classification category, such as underweight, overweight or obese. Although BMI is regularly used among populations, it is not appropriate for everyone as lean athletes will often have a higher BMI due to greater muscle mass making them disproportionally heavier for their height. BMI does however give us a great snapshots of large general populations, allowing us to make educated analysis as a result.
Checklists are great measures if developed appropriately because they offer a yes/no method of assessment. Checklists and most objective measures have high reliability and are easy to use and can give us a great amount of information over time and can help us set and surpass standards. These standards can help inform both the participant and the teacher/coach where they are at in terms of health, achievement, skills, and a number of other factors. At the end of all this data collection, we are left with information and it is up to each of us as teachers/coaches to use that information, analyze it and provide insight. Check out these assessment cards to see an example of appropriate checklist style assessment.
Subjective Measures (Art)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and quality movement is often in the eye of the evaluator. When subjectively assessing physical movement, we often use rating scales, rubrics, or matrices. These are great tools to assess the quality of movement in small populations but are extremely difficult to compare with a different evaluators eye. It is often hard to compare subjective information because each evaluation will have different training, values, and perspective. Subjective evaluation is excellent for working on the individual level and refining skills and knowledge. Alternative to objective measures, subjectively we the evaluators provide insight to the participant and their growth but it is hard to extract useable information that can be compared to external populations with other evaluators.
How do I use this data to inform and make a difference?
Setting standards requires data collection from a very large sample of a population and repeating that collection on a regular basis. Daily assessment of your students is one of the best ways to determine where your students are performing in comparison to other populations. If physical educators and coaches can regularly collect data on the performance of their participants we will have a better idea of how our own students or players are doing and when to intervene. Individually, we still need to appreciate the art of subjective assessment and continually educate ourselves as instructors/coaches to individually evaluate every participant and put them in the best situation to succeed. It is the combination of art and science.