Throughout the physical education lesson, the teacher is involved in various forms of assessment of children’s work as a natural part of teaching and learning activities. Each form helps the teacher to ensure that on-going achievements are recognised, areas of learning difficulty and high achievement are identified, the progress of a child is recorded andcommunicated to other teachers and parents and the next stages of learning are planned.
A number of tools can be used to gather information about a child’s progress.
Teachers continually observe children as they engage in activities within the physical education lesson. The response of children to teacher questions and suggestions or the responses the child makes when set a task provide much valuable information about the child’s learning. Information can be gathered on the child’s level of skill, interaction within the class or group and level of understanding, for example. While questioning a child is an obvious means of examining his/her understanding, it is often useful to observe the child, for instance as a game is played. This situation provides not only an indication of the understanding of the child but also information on his/her skill level and interaction with a group. Such observation can indicate how he/she applies skills in the context of a game: the child may be able to adapt the skill for use in a variety of situations in the game (striking a ball in a defensive position while being challenged by an opponent, striking the ball to score a goal from a number of angles) or may be limited to performing the skill in a restricted situation (striking the ball over a short distance, unchallenged by an opponent). This activity also provides useful information on the depth of understanding displayed (whether the child chooses the mostappropriate means of attacking when he/she is challenged by an opponent) and on the interaction of the child within the group (how he/she supports team members in a defensive situation).
Talking to children individually or in groups and listening carefully to what they say as they plan or discuss their own work or the work of others helps the teacher to collect information. Looking at children as they practise skills can often result in more detailed information than testing a child to determine whether he/she has mastered the skills. Observing a child explore an idea for a dance as part of a group provides a range of information related to his/her creative development, social development in the form of interaction within a group and physical skills which can be assessed in the performance of the dance.
While teachers generally observe with learning outcomes in mind, sometimes it may help to identify particular groups or individuals in advance whose work might be the focus of more detailed observation during a particular class or for a specific activity within a class. Where a teacher observes a group, it allows for the assessment of how the individuals within the group interact. In this way, observation is undertaken in a more systematic way.
The simple recording of information in a notebook or on a clipboard helps to ensure that teachers’ observations can complement other forms of assessment when compiling pupil profiles.
Tasks will be designed by the teacher to provide a variety of opportunities for learning by the child. The curriculum describes tasks which are undertaken as part of the teaching and learning situation so that a normal class activity set up for teaching purposes can be used for the purposes of assessment. The teacher can set a task, for example, in games which may be an isolated skills practice. In gymnastics this may be an isolated movement or a full performance. The teacher should ensure that the task is valid, relevant and appropriate to the level of the child. The task can be controlled to meet the needs of the child and assessment needs by varying the level of difficulty, for instance. It is usually possible to adjust tasks in the teaching context as required.
The use of a wide range of tasks related to different strands is recommended in order to provide opportunities for all children to demonstrate their skills. The attitudes of children can also be assessed where they are likely to achieve varying degrees of success as they are challenged by tasks. A child who excels when completing a task in gymnastics, for example, may not cope as well with a task in the aquatics lesson. The quality of performance of the task can be noted as well as his/her acceptance of the levels of performance. Samples of a variety of tasks related to different strands are outlined below:
- roll a ball at a target
- play a 4 v. 4 game where two goals are to be defended and two goals can be attacked
- create a pair sequence using simple apparatus
- undertake a score orienteering event where a group discusses which controls to find in order to gain the highest score value
- pitch a tent involving a group deciding where to place it, how to prepare the location and how to construct it.
Some tasks may be completed as part of a lesson; others may require a number of lessons to complete.
This technique of assessment is especially useful in evaluating children’s development of particular skills, and information gathered can contribute to the profile of the child.
Curriculum profiles in physical education
Curriculum profiles provide a means of assessing and recording the child’s progress using indicators. These indicators are related to elements of the six strands of physical education, and teachers match their observations of pupils to the indicators in the profiles as the children undertake work. Sometimes the indicators are written in the form of summary paragraphs. Examples of such statements (which are not specific to a particular level) are outlined below.
- understands and responds to stimuli and instructions
- begins to show control in ways of moving such as running, climbing, twisting and jumping
- measures performance in running, jumping and throwing activities
- moves with poise, control and coordination
- uses simple tactics to outwit an opponent in a games situation
- begins to create simple dances and games
- is confident and safe in water
- carries, uses and stores equipment safely.
Children’s ability in relation to statements of achievement could be highlighted or marked, thus retaining a record of the child’s progress. Information gathered by using curriculum profiles can supplement the information gleaned from other techniques of assessment to complete a pupil profile.