Every year, I look at my phys ed assessment methods and wonder how I can make students’ grades as objective as possible. Gone are the days where assigning a subjective grade based on whether a student is athletic or non-athletic. My students know my goal is to be as fair as possible to everyone and that everyone is graded on what they do in class, not someone else. My first day introduction to my class always includes the message that it doesn’t matter to me if you are an all-star athlete or someone who struggles to catch a ball, everyone in my class is capable of earning an A in class. I feel that by starting the year with that message, all my students realize that I am here to see them succeed and that they are all capable.
Teach New Skills with Cue Cards
With that being said, I try to use the most objective PE assessment methods for grading my students and typically incorporate either a rubric or cue card, so that students know the expectation and how their individual grade will be determined.
One of the easiest and cheapest methods for assessing is the use of cue cards when teaching a new skill. And I will be honest, for me, I would use this at the elementary level. And my personal opinion at the elementary level when it comes to grades is that students should not receive a grade but instead a comprehensive checklist of skills that they are able to complete. Telling a student that he/she is failing PE at a young age in my opinion can lead to apprehension about being active that can last a lifetime. Just recently, the New York Times published an article stating that adults who had negative feelings toward Physical Education when they were younger were less likely to exercise as they got older. Remember our goal is to get young students to see the value and benefits in being active, so BUILD THEM UP! Back to cue cards, I would break a skill, like an underhand toss, down to 3 steps. First step would be taking the ball back, next stepping with opposite foot, and then following through toward the target. You can add that the ball will hit the target 3 out of 5 times if you would like for students to have a goal. But again, the purpose is to be objective and then give feedback, so students know what they are doing well, and what they need to work on when practicing the skill. If you are lucky enough to have an iPad or another device that records video, record students and let them see themselves performing the skill. I know this takes time, but I am a big proponent of station work at the elementary level, so you can cycle kids through stations practicing the skill in different ways and then have one station for assessment.
Using Heart Rate Monitors for Phys Ed Assessment
My second method for phys ed assessments would be the use of heart rate monitors. This method is more appropriate for high school and maybe middle school students.
There is some upfront work that your classes need to do before using this assessment method, but it’s something that would be very beneficial for students to know and understand how to do. Have your students calculate their own personal target heart rate zone for aerobic training. This will allow students to know where their heart rate needs to be during class to gain aerobic benefit. It also allows you to determine in a rubric how many minutes you expect your students to be within their target heart zone during a class period. Using the predetermined rubric standards, you can assign a grade to each individual student and the students also know the expectation from the beginning of class.
Utilize Pedometers for PE Assessment
The third Physical Education assessment method is to utilize pedometers. My high school and middle school use pedometers almost every day to assess students during PE class. We have rubrics in place for students, so they are completely aware of what our expectation is during class. We currently use Gopher’s FitStep Pro Uploadable Pedometers with our students. The software that comes with these allows us to create spreadsheets and all kinds of documents to provide evidence for our grading. The other thing I like about pedometers is that they are very easy to use, both by the teacher and the students. Again, these are uploadable, so the time to get our data into the system is just seconds per student. I have done presentations about pedometers at several conferences and have had a lot of teachers order these and love them.
I am sure there are many other objective methods for assessing students, and I strongly encourage you to seek them out and share them with others! As PE teachers, we are a strong community with the same goal for all students, and that is to help students value being physically active, so the more we share the better!