Assessment of Physical Education in Elementary



Physical education is defined as the systematic instruction in sports, exercises, and hygiene given as part of a school program.
There has also been a dramatic increase in unhealthy weights in children. Obesity rates in children have almost tripled in the last 25 years. Approximately 26% of Canadian children ages 2-17 years old are currently overweight or obese. This wiki serves the purpose to properly assess students in physical education at the elementary level. This provides explanation of specified outcomes of physical education, assessment and evaluation strategies, assessment of special need students, and the issues with assessment of physical education.

1. General and Specific Learner Outcomes for Elementary Physical Education

In reference to the Program of Studies, there are four general outcomes that all students should achieve through physical education class. The four general outcomes are as follows:

General Outcome A: Students will acquire skills through a variety of developmentally appropriate movement activities; dance, games, types of gymnastics, individual activities and activities in an alternate environment; examples, aquatics and outdoor pursuits.
- The basic skills that students will acquire are locomotor, non locomotor, and manipulative.

General Outcome B: Students will understand experience and appreciate the health benefits that result from physical activity.
- Students will understand the concepts of functional fitness, body image, and well-being.

General Outcome C: Students will interact positively with others.
- Students will develop communication skills, understand fair play, participate in leadership, and co-operate in team work.

General Outcome D: Students will assume responsibility to lead an active way of life.
- Students will understand how to set realistic goals, the safety issues involved in physical fitness, as well as the effort that is required to lead an active lifestyle

Although these general outcomes encompass all ages of students, specific learner outcomes are grade specific and are much more in depth. To view specific learner outcomes for a particular grade please refer to the link below:

Although the Program of Studies provides concrete objectives that students are to work towards, there are no modifications within in it that assist in teaching physical education to students with disabilities. New laws and legislations have resulted in children with special needs being placed in general physical education classes, with teachers who are not required to have advanced training. For this reason educators should strive towards having the program of studies modified as well as requiring physical education teachers to have additional knowledge so that they can plan activities appropriate to all students participating.

2. How to Assess and Evaluate Physical Education at Elementary

To assist students in meeting the aim of the physical education program, assessment should be a continuous, collaborative and comprehensive process and include clearly identified and communicated criteria.

  1. Continuous – Assessment practices should be carried out in such a way that they promote, encourage and support ongoing student learning and development
  2. Collaborative – Both students and parents benefit when they are involved in the assessment process
  3. Comprehensive – Assessment practices should address the curricular outcomes and include a variety of strategies that meet the diverse learning needs of students
  4. Criteria – Assessment practices should identify the critical aspects of performance that describe, in specific terms, what is involved in demonstrating student learning.

For further detail on specific assessment practices included in the principles section of assessment, please refer to the “Physical Education: Guide to Implementation Kindergarten to Grade 12” located in the Alberta Learning and Teaching Resource Branch. (Physical Education Guide to Implementation: Kindergarten to Grade 12, Alberta Learning, 2000, p. 47)
Assessment, Evaluation and Communication

3. Assessment Strategies: Observation and Evaluation

Overview of Observation:
Assessment strategies should be of interest to students and should be meaningful, engaging, and related to life. A variety of activities from all dimensions are important so that students have different experiences. Different assessment strategies provide different information, and what is suitable for one purpose may not be suitable for another. In order for assessment information to be useful to students, teachers and other, it must be focused and specific. Quality assessment is a learning activity that enables students to reveal what they know and can do (p. 49)

Observing Students:
  • Predetermine the specific outcomes to be observed
  • Decide what to look for – the criteria – which is evidence you will accept that the student has learned
  • Before assessing an outcome, ensure the students are aware of the criteria
  • Decide who and what to observe in advance – Select 4 or 5 students per class – Choose one or two specific skills to observe
  • Find a personally comfortable and manageable way to make your observations: Clipboard with class list to take anecdotal notes, Clipboard with an evaluation tool (checklist, scoring guide/rubric or analytic rating scale), video camera, cassette recorder
  • Team teaching – One teacher observes while another teacher teaches
  • Collect observations on a number of occasions during a reporting period, and look for patterns of performance
  • Use observations to enhance or modify future instruction, as well as to guide messages to students about improvements (p.49)

Overview of Evaluation:
Judgments about student achievement and growth follow assessment. Evaluation is based on comparing a student’s work to the grade level outcomes upon which achievement criteria are based. These criteria form the basis for evaluating and communicating student learning (p. 50).

Steps to Develop Evaluation Criteria:
  1. Focus on specific outcome
  2. Select a student performance task/illustrative example
  3. Determine criteria, the acceptable evidence, of the specific outcome in the performance
  4. Inform students, prior to the activity, about the criteria upon which their work will be evaluated (p. 50)

Using Criteria provides students with:
  1. Clear performance targets, and the opportunity to know what excellence would look like
  2. A way for reflecting on their learning and setting goals for improved performance (p. 50)

Sample Assessment, Evaluation and Communication Strategies
Program Planning Templates and Examples

4. Assessing Special Needs Students in Physical Education

Standardized testing is used in all schools to measure the progress in which students are compared on a scale with defined testing procedures. Testing procedures such as these were developed by comparing students who were of similar age and gender and have comparable physical fitness qualities. Standardized testing is used for the general population of students, but as an educator in physical fitness, one cannot discriminate against students who have physical, cognitive, and behavioural disabilities which may skew test results in areas of standardized testing.

To adapt assessment for special needs students, the teacher must first have reason to make changes for that unique individual. Normally, this area will already be covered by a school psychologist and would include administration tests. Teachers themselves will usually not administer any standardized tests to identify unique needs for a child. Once a need is identified, the student will then qualify for individual planning by the teacher.

There are many different disabilities that need to be addressed in schools. For the purpose of this assignment, we will look at the most frequent problem. Social behaviour is often the greatest domain children with disabilities fall under. To assess behaviour in physical education, teachers will develop rubrics, checklists, rating scales, or task analyses to measure children’s conduct. Some criteria you can assess special needs children with behavioural problems under are as follows: etiquette, fairness, communication with peers, communication with instructors, and scoring. Tracking the progress should be monitored throughout the school year. At the end of the school year, progress should be measured in terms of written goals and objectives achieved.

In this assignment we have only touched on a particular area of special needs children in physical education. It is up to the educational staff in schools to develop and implement the standards in ways that can be measured and evaluated. These standards will change with each special needs child, because every disability comes with a different set of requirements. Below is an example checklist of a child with ADHD. This example checklist focuses in on particular student’s characteristics that were or were not present in a physical education class. This checklist would be used frequently, to track progress throughout the term.

Yes No

_ _ Respects others’ personal space and boundaries
_ _ Plays fairly
_ _ Accepts defeat and does not complain, accepts victory and does not gloat
_ _ Encourages others, and accepts skill levels of others
_ _ Accepts coaching cues in a positive manner
_ _ Responds to instruction and seeks clarification
_ _ Remains on task

Resource Book for Teachers
(Availiable in U of L Library)

5. Issues in Assessing Physical Education

Assessment although necessary, is rarely valid. The act of being observed can severely alter performance. This can occur in any setting where assessment is happening, including the gymnasium. In the assessment of physical education in grades K-6, common issues arise in regards to the individuality of each participant. Common problems such as developmental rates, learning styles, and assessment frequency all contribute to the controversy of physical education assessment.

The rate at which an elementary student physically, cognitively, and emotionally develops affects assessment accuracy. According to Michael Gosset, two questions are frequently asked when assessing physical education; when is a child developmentally (physically) ready to be assessed on various sport skills and on what types of skills is the student ready to be tested? They may have the knowledge of what to do, but not be physically ready to do so (1). Teachers must take this into account when assessing students in physical education. We would expect a typical 10-year-old to execute the tasks more successfully than a typical eight-year-old. The 10-year-old might be expected to perform a throw not only with proper form, but with a better flow than the eight-year-old, because the 10-year-old's body is more fully developed and therefore has more control. (Gosset, 2007) As assessors, we must keep this notion in mind when expecting students to meet a standardized test, not all children are going to develop at the same rate, while mastering the same skills.

Students absorb information differently, adds to controversy surrounding assessment. If a teacher is lecturing instructions without visual demonstration, students may not learn that particular way. Students may need a visual representation of the skill you are planning to assess them on. If this is not provided, assessment may be inaccurate due to lack of comprehension. We must reach all learning styles when delivering information prior to assessment. How do we know our students have learned anything from our lessons that in turn, we are planning to assess them on?

Michael Gosset challenges the frequency of assessment: once a year, once a semester, once a month, or more often? Commonly, skills are assessed once yearly and not revisited during the year. (Gosset, 2007). This impacts children’s performance at time of assessment. If a student is not mastering the skill at the time of assessment, who is to say they will not have it mastered shortly after? If educators do not provide alternate periods of assessment, students may miss their opportunity to demonstrate skill acquisition. The strategic frequency of assessment of physical education is crucial to significant improvement in student skills.

Resource List

  • Advanced Fitness Assessment Exercise Prescription 3rd Edition by Vivian H. Heyward
  • Assessing Competency in Physical Education Activities by Ruth Marian Wilson
  • Evaluation in Physical Education 2nd Edition by Margaret J. Safrit

Reference List

Winnick, J. P. (2011). Adapted physical education and sport. (5 ed., pp. 60-76). Windsor: Courier Printing.

Fittipaldi-Wert,J., & Brock,S .J. (2006). Physical activity assessments for individuals with disabilities. Teaching elementary physical education. 17(4),22-26. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Michael Gosset (2007). Assessment in Elementary Physical Education: An Appropriate Progression Journal of Physical Education Recreation & Dance. Reston (Vol. 78, Iss. 1, p.14-15 (2pp.))

(1995). Government of alberta physical education guide to implementation. Retrieved from