Leveraging Technology for Grading and Assessment in Physical Education

It’s the end of the grading period and you’re getting ready to fill out hundreds of student report cards.  What are you feeling right­­ now?  If you’re like a lot PE teachers, you’re feeling the stress mounting as you prepare to tackle this monumental task.  Maybe assessment isn’t one of your strengths, and so you haven’t collected much concrete data to really substantiate your grades.  So, what do you do?  The answer to this question isn’t something most PE teachers care to discuss openly, although it should be.  I want to share with you how I leverage technology in Phys Ed to eliminate subjectivity in my grading and utilize a more data-driven, objective approach.  Here is how I break it down…

Know Your Report Card

First, take a look at your reporting tool (report card/progress report).  What are the assessed content areas for which you need to give a grade?  For me, I have four content areas in which each student receives a grade.  Those four areas are: Skills (psychomotor), Knowledge (cognitive), Behavior (affective), and Effort/Participation.  Your report card is probably different than mine.  You may have a single letter grade, a percentage grade, a point scale of some sort, or any number of other things.  The idea here is to understand what needs to be assessed throughout the year in order to gather enough data to support the grade your students will receive at the end of each grading period.

Develop A Plan

Once you know “what” you need to assess, then you need to decide on “how” you want to assess it.  I always try to look for ways to use technology that help make gathering data easier.  The whole “work smarter, not harder” mantra applies here.  Don’t think about it in terms of the whole “assessment creates a lot more work for me” mentality.  Good assessments should be both meaningful for the learner and manageable for the teacher.  I teach elementary and see my students twice a week for 30 minutes with the majority of classes being back to back. I need to focus my efforts & attention on the types of assessments that don’t take a lot of time and don’t detract from the learning/activity time they so desperately need.  Sound familiar to your situation?  Well here’s the plan I came up with to help me track my students’ progress throughout the year…

FitStep™ Pro Pedometer set up
Easily track your student’s progress with Gopher’s FitStep Pro Uploadable pedometers.

Decide on Assessment Tools

Since I have four content area grades, I use four different “tech tools” to help be more efficient, effective and efficient in my assessing/grading.  The four tools I use are Google Forms, Plickers, Class Dojo, and Gopher FitStep Pro Uploadable pedometers. The FitStep Pro pedometers make it easy for me to track my student’s activity and progress without taking up a large amount of class time. I am also able to print out individual and class reports. While you can certainly use other tools (or maybe even fewer tools) I just want to share what works for me, and hopefully it will spark some ideas for how you may incorporate technology use into your assessment practices.

Assessing Skill Competency

The skill grade is arguably the most predominate grade relating to our subject matter.  We want to know where our students are at in relation to a standard or grade level outcome.  In other words, “what can they DO at a particular point in time?”  To assess this, the tool I use is Google Forms.  I create a separate form for each individual class and set it up in “the grid” format. This would have the name of the skill I’m observing at the top, the students’ names down the left-hand column and the rubric checkboxes for the particular skill or skill component I’m looking for next to each student’s name.  This allows me to quickly scan the class, check the individual boxes based on what I observe, and have data points collected on every student – typically by the time class is over.  The great thing about Google Forms is that all the data that is entered into the form gets automatically transferred into a corresponding spreadsheet.  The raw data collected on the sheet can now be organized however I want.  I mean, most of you are already observing your students during activity time, might as well do some “purposeful” observation and keep a record of it, right?  And while you’re at it, use those skill observations as opportunities to give specific feedback to help keep students moving forward. TeachPhysEd author, Benjamin Pirillo, created a great video that walks through the process of building a Google Form. In my opinion, the feedback is the most important component of the learning process, so don’t skimp here!

Assessing Content Knowledge

Plickers card storage rack
I use Plickers in class to get instant feedback on topics students might be struggling with.

Here we are looking for, “What do my students KNOW?”  Obviously, just because we taught something, doesn’t mean our students learned it.  So how do we know what students know?  We ask them and they share what they know with us.  When it comes to assessing the content knowledge of a skill or concept, I use both Google Forms and Plickers cards.  These tools are typically quick, formative assessments done throughout the grading period to both guide my instruction and help students recognize what they don’t know yet.  Oftentimes, I find that going over the questions/responses immediately afterward, lead todeeper discussion and opportunities to get into those higher-level thinking skills on the “Depth of Knowledge” scale.

Using google forms for Phys Ed assessment
Google Forms are great options for assessing skill competency and content knowledge.

My Google Forms typically include 3-5 questions that I place on the home screen of my 7 student iPads.  I either have students answer the questions on the iPads as part of a “station rotation” format or just leave them out and tell my students that they must complete the form at some point during class.  The Plickers cards are simply used as a response system that they hold up in response to a question posted on my projector or TV and I scan the cards (answers) with my phone.  The data is instantly synced and the responses are recorded.  I can then immediately share responses with the class and discuss why an answer is correct or incorrect.  Similar to the Google Form spreadsheet, all the Plickers data is saved within the program so I can go back in and view reports of the students’ responses.

Assessing Personal/Social Behavior

This is the one area that I assess every day.  I use a program called Class Dojo to track observable behaviors during class.  I have the app installed on my iPhone and iPad so pulling it out to award or subtract points is a breeze.  Basically, I created a list of positive behaviors that I want to encourage in my students.  I also came up with a list of negative behaviors that I want to extinguish in my classes.  As the class or individuals demonstrate a positive behavior, I will award them a point. If I see a negative behavior, I take a point away.  The Class Dojo program tallies all the points and converts them into an overall positive behavior percentage.  Parents are connected to their child’s class through the app as well and can see all the points earned or lost by logging into their account.  This has been a great way for parents to celebrate their student’s successes and help keep them on track if there’s an area that needs work.  At the end of the grading period, I simply view the desired date range and see what each student’s positive behavior percentage is.  I convert the percentages to coincide with my District’s report card descriptors.

Assessing Effort/Participation

FitStep Pedometer class organization example
I use Gopher’s FitStep Pro Uploadable pedometers and accompanying software as a simple way for me to see how actively my students are participating.

This area often gets misunderstood by parents.  Traditional programs may have graded on dressing out, wearing proper shoes or more subjectively basing a student’s overall athleticism on their effort/participation level.  These are antiquated practices that should not be used to determine this portion of a student’s grade.  I use Gopher’s FitStep Pro Uploadable pedometers and accompanying software as a simple way for me to see how actively my students are participating.  I tried heart rate monitors in the past, which are another great tool, but the simplicity of pedometers for younger students won me over.  For the longest time, I based the effort/participation portion solely on the number of times students chose to sit out of an activity.  And for most of my elementary students, not many were sitting out – which was a good thing, but I had no way of quantifying those highly active movers from the more casual mover.

The FitStep Pro Uploadable pedometers not only measure steps, but also total activity time and MVPA (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) time.  Now I can see exactly how much time students spend actively engaged in activity – measurable, objective data – game changer!  Best of all, each student is in complete control of how much they move.  The uploading process takes about 2 seconds per student and with 4 data readers, I can have a class of 25 uploaded in under 2 minutes easily.  I search a date range and see students’ individual step, activity time, and MVPA time averages.  I take those averages and see where they land in relation to my rubric and mark the appropriate grade descriptor.

Wrap Up

Don’t let grading be a time of dread, and please don’t make it a “check the box off the top of your head” type of endeavor.  Follow the steps I’ve outlined above and use the tools you are the most familiar with.  Again, there are lots of different apps and software programs to use, so find something you’re comfortable with and start there.  It’s going to take time to get your system fine-tuned and that’s okay.  Remember, there will come a time when a parent is going to question a grade and having data collected to share with that parent will make that conversation an easy one.  When they see how much data you have on their child, you will have won them over as a professional and not just another “gym teacher.”

Until next time, feel free to leave a comment or question below.  I’d love to connect with you on Twitter @pe4everykid or visit my website for more details on how I integrate technology into my program: www.pe4everykid.weebly.com.

6 Responses

  1. You’re welcome! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I hope you found something helpful to use in your teaching!!

  2. Awesome teaching knowledge Mike! I appreciate the information you shared, because I worry about how to honestly make a assessments on students over holistic indexes. You have alleviated a lot of my stress on how to evaluate these youthful citizens. Thanks!

  3. Hey Mike I enjoyed reading this article. I am new to teaching PE and I am wondering how did you get pedometers for each of your students? Was this covered by your school? What do you do with students have disabilities?

  4. Hi, Brian – I wrote a grant to obtain a class set of pedometers. I received 30. (My biggest class size has been 27). All my students in grades 1-5 wear them. I have the Gopher FitStep Stream pedometers. The software is free and super easy to use. An entire class can upload their data in under a minute. Each pedometer is assigned a kid code number. Each student in each class also has a kid code number. So each class uses the same set of pedometers. If you have more questions, you can email me at pe4everykid@gmail.com Thanks!

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