18 SES 03, Ability and Assessment in Physical Education
Drawing on theoretical perspectives on learning bodily skills combined with literature on the development of expertise in sport this paper discusses how assessment in physical education (PE) could be understood in relation to physical education as a school subject.
Both international and national research studies have shown that assessment in PE is complex and troublesome (e.g., Lópes-Pastor et al., 2013; Redelius et. al. 2009). Swedish research has highlighted that PE teachers are not in agreement about what students should learn in the subject (Annerstedt & Larsson 2010; Lópes-Pastor et al., 2013; Redelius et al., 2009). As a side effect of this, teachers are also uncertain about how to assess different student qualities (Annerstedt& Larsson 2010; Redelius et. al. 2009). This uncertainty about what students should learn become most obvious when teachers are grading student’s competence (Larsson, 2007). Teachers also have a hard time verbalizing their assessment and the distribution of grades. Therefore, they often refer to their intuition and gut feelings when grading students’ performance (Annerstedt & Larsson 2010; Svennberg et al., 2017). In general research have highlighted that assessment in physical education focuses on certain dimensions such as motor skill, fitness and team games as a major part of the assessment. For example, both review studies (Lópes-Pastor et al., 2013), and recent empirical studies of PE teachers assessment practices confirms this picture (Borghouts et al., 2017; Dalen et al., 2017). Similarly, findings from Swedish studies argues that there is a relation between PE-teachers use of teaching strategies and grading (Håkansson, 2015). Some of the teachers in his study are fully driven by the subjects’ traditions (physical activities, team sports), and others by a mix of traditions and interpretation of present curricula. When grading, both of these teacher categories try to gather evidence by documenting students’ performance in the sport activities. The third category of teachers transforms the curricula into teaching. The starting point in these teachers’ teaching practice is not based on “sport activities”, instead they transform the learning and knowledge requirements in curricula into different activities and physical movements. In a recent study, Svennberg (2017) shows that teachers' assessments of student's movement, which instead of sport and physical activity is emphasized in the national syllabus from 2011, are difficult to put into words, and what is assessed is closely related to techniques in competitive sports and fitness. Another Swedish study on pupil’s perceptions of PE show that the pupils believe that enough teaching time is missing for the subject, which makes it difficult to practice to the extent required to obtain a higher grade (Wiker, 2018).
In particular, this study will discuss the subjects’ legitimacy as a school subject, which competes for time and space with other subjects. As we have learnt from this short literature review, the assessment and grading in PE are, independent of the teachers teaching strategies, interpretations of present curricula or relation to the traditions of the subject, in one way or the other is related to assessment of students’ physical movement. In this paper we will discuss “movement” and grading in PE in relation to theoretical perspectives emphasizing that skills are dimensions of the ability to act effectively in situation (e.g., Argyris & Schön, 1992; Polanyi, 1966) combined with research in sport science that has acknowledged that acquiring skillful behavior in sport requires a lengthy learning process and that differences between more and less skilled individuals depend on experience (Côté et al., 2007; Ericsson 2006).
We use theoretical perspectives on learning bodily skills (e.g., Argyris & Schön, 1992; Bourdieu, 1990; Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1997; Polanyi, 1966) combined with literature on the development of expertise in sport (e.g., Côté, et al., 2007; Ericsson, 2006) as our analytical framework to understand assessment and grading in physical education. The study uses secondary sources as basis for these analyses. The material used consisted of research reviews and empirical research, foremost from a Nordic perspective, that have studied physical education assessment and grading.
Taken together, research provide a rather conclusive overall picture that PE is dominated by a sport- and activity culture within which the students´ performance is assessed. However, learning to become skilled is in Merleau-Pontys terms, about developing habits that are effective for the situations in which they will be used (cf. Bourdieu, 1990; Polanyi, 1966), and as researchers found require hours of preparation (cf. Baker & Cobley, 2013; Ericsson, 2006 for the development of sport skills). Kirk (2005) has pointed out that early learning experiences are crucial to continued involvement in physical activity. Those experiences involve the nature of children's experiences and acquisition of physical competencies, perceptions of competence, and its effects on motivation to participate in sport, which we argue most likely reflects their grades in physical education. These experiences, which is not possible to acquire by participating two times per week in PE lessons, shape an individual's athletic ability, which are favourable for receiving high grades in physical education (cf. Tammelin et al., 2003). Athletic ability that is assessed in PE may therefore merely reflect the amount of training performed outside school. Finally, assessment in PE does not reflect what is stated in the syllabuses for physical education. Instead, assessment in PE tends to be pushed into assessing skills as a consequence of a teaching practice that emphasizes sport activities. Future studies should direct their effort to understand why this occur, irrespective of which syllabus that guide PE. As research indicate the shift from sport to movement qualities does not automatically solve the problem. PE is, however, in accordance with other school subjects in Sweden a knowledge-based subject. The subject's legitimacy stands and falls with that teachers must handle and resolve how the development of movement skills takes place within the subject and not in the sports movement.
Annerstedt, C. & Larsson, S. (2010). 'I have my own picture of what the demands are ... '. Grading in Swedish PEH - problems of validity, comparability and fairness. European Physical Education Review, 16(2), 97-115. Argyris, C., Schön, D.A. (1992). Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness. (Reprinted). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Baker, J., & Cobley, S. (2013). Outliers, talent codes, and myths: Play and practice in developing the expert athlete. In Developing sport expertise: Researchers and coaches put theory into practice (second edition), 13-29. London: Routledge Borghouts, L.B., Slingerland, M., & Haerens, L. (2017). Assessment quality and practices in secondary PE in the Netherlands. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 22(5), 473-489. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Cambridge: Polity Press. Dalen, T., Ingvaldsen, R. P., Roass, T.V., Pedersen, A.V., Steen, I., & Aune, T.K .(2017). The Impact of Physical Growth and Relative Age Effect on Assessment in Physical Education. European Journal of Sport Science 17(4): 482-487. Ericsson, KA. 2006. "The Influence of Experience and Deliberate Practice on the Development of Superior Expert Performance." In The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, 683-704. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Håkansson, R. (2015). Vad betyder Ok+?: En studie om lärares dokumentationsarbete i ämnet idrott och hälsa. Stockholm: Gymnastik och idrottshögskolan. Kirk, D. (2005). Physical education, youth sport and lifelong participation: the importance of early learning experiences. European Physical Education Review, 1 (3), 239-255 Larsson, H.(2007). Idrott och hälsa - en del av idrottskulturen. I Larsson, H. & Meckbach, J. Idrottsdidaktiska utmaningar.sidor Stockholm: Liber. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/1997). Kroppens fenomenologi. Göteborg: Daidalos Pástor-Lopes, V.M., Kirk, D., Lorente-Catalán, E., MacPhail, A., & Macdonald, D. (2013). Alternative assessment in physical education: a review of international literature. Sport, Education and Society, 18(1), 57-76. Polanyi, M. (1966). The tacit dimension. New York: Doubleday. Redelius, K. Fagrell, B. & Larsson, H. (2009). Symbolic capital in physical education and health: to be, to do or to know? That is the gendered question, Sport, Education and Society, 14( 2), 245-260. Svennberg, L. (2017). Swedish PE teachers' understandings of legitimate movement in a criterion-referenced grading system. Physical education and sport pedagogy, (22)3, 257-269. Tammelin, T., S. Näyhä, A. P. Hills, and M-R. Järvelin. 2003. "Adolescent Participation in Sports and Adult Physical Activity." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 24 (1): 22-28. Wiker, M. (2017). "Det är live liksom". Elevers perspektiv på villkor och utmaningar i idrott och hälsa (dissertation). Karlstad University Studies, (2017:45).
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