Volume 7, Issue 2, December 2015
UDC 373.312.797:796
Mila Fischer and Adrian J. Haug
Franconian International School, Erlangen, Germany
Correspondence to:
Mila Fischer
Franconian International School
Marie-Curie-Str. 2, D-91052
Erlangen, Germany
Phone: +49 9131 940 390,
Fax: +49 9131 940 39 710
E-mail: mila.fischer@the-fis.de
Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategies can be regularly used to gauge and respond to
student progress in an international school learning environment. In its various forms,
assessment is crucial for helping students to learn, better understand their learning process,
and should be an ongoing means of learning feedback. The aim of this study was to
determine the possible opportunities for implementing AfL in elementary school physical
education classes. AfL provides feedback on what has been done well, what is understood
and how to progress. For each of the key skills in physical education, clear performance
criteria could be articulated in the form of a teacher’s and child’s rubric. Examining the
reflections of six PE teachers on their experience in working with AfLs, it was proved that
implementing AfL in elementary school PE practice encourages and enables students to
assess their own learning and progress. This method of assessment also helps teachers to
improve individual student learning and not just record or identify which learning stage a
student resides.
Keywords: physical education, assessment for learning, scenarios, rubrics, learning advice.
There is an increasing awareness of the importance of providing youth with meaningful and
enjoyable physical activity experiences. Movement and play are focal points of young
people´s lives and are critical to all aspects of their growth and development. The unique
learning opportunities in physical education in schools can be engaging and motivating for
students and allow them to acquire the knowledge, skills, understandings, and attitudes that
enable them to enhance their quality of life through active living.
At the same time, physical education makes an important contribution to the overall
education of students. Students who participate in regular physical education classes enjoy
enhanced memory and learning, better concentration, and increased problem-solving abilities.
They are willing to take appropriate risks, and they have a positive attitude towards self and
others. Physical education fosters appreciation for skills such as co-operation and teamwork,
and contributes to the development of positive personal and social behaviors that improve
school climate and students´ academic success (FIS, PE Rationale, 2010).
No less important is the contribution that physical education can make to imparting the
knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to incorporate physical activity into lifelong
pursuits, including daily routines and recreational and career activities. Indeed, physical
education contributes to students´ future capacity to lead active, healthy, responsible, and
productive adult lives, allowing them to maximize their personal enjoyment of life and to
minimize their risk of developing health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Bearing all this in mind, the Physical Education Department at the Franconian International
(Erlangen, Germany) developed and accepted the following FIS PE Mission:
“Motivating and supporting all students to develop the physical, emotional, cognitive and
social skills that will enable them to live healthy, active lifestyles”(FIS, 2015).
A progressive pedagogical approach that has been recently introduced at the Franconian
International School defines that all teachers and departments should be striving for best
practice to enhance learning within the entire community. In everyday practice, this allows
teachers to model the ideas of lifelong learning and risk taking so that student learning is
preeminent in thought and action. Based upon the Mission and the FIS Learning and
Teaching Principles, an effective PE lesson was determined in order to help PE teaching staff
with curriculum delivery. When planning, implementing and evaluating PE instructional
processes, the teachers are encouraged and supported by the FIS Senior Leadership Team to
do this by engaging (among others) in the following:
working collaboratively with colleagues,
trailing and evaluating new or different learning and teaching strategies,
sharing strategies with peers,
reflecting on one´s own practice and its impact.
The Learning Goals are, of course, vital in the entire PE instructional process. However, they
only set out what students should learn but not how. Recent research findings influenced the
understanding of process of learning itself, which in the end significantly contributed to
changes in creating exciting learning opportunities for students. For the PE teachers at the
FIS these changes opened a completely new horizon allowing students to take responsibility
for their own learning.
In this context, an innovative approach to teaching and learning in PE practice included also
some key criteria for assessment. The FIS Curriculum Glossary defines assessment as “a
device to inform all stakeholders of the learning that is taking place against specific goals and
criteria” (FIS, Curriculum Glossary, 2014). The FIS PE department strongly believes that the
following elements are crucial to executing successful assessment (Wiliam & Rubin, 2011):
sharing learning intentions with students;
eliciting evidence of achievement through on-the-spot assessments;
providing feedback to students that move learning forward;
activating students as learning resources for one another;
activating students as owners of their own learning.
The FIS wants students to be independent learners. Therefore the school-wide Learning
Principles were developed in order to “allow students to become deep, engaged, active
learners rather than passive participants in their schooling” (IPC, 2015). In consequence,
since there is a close match between the objectives of AfL implementation and the PE
Mission of the FIS, assessments for learning became an important part in all phases of the
physical education instructional process.
The purpose of this case study was:
to examine the current state of AfL implementation in PE classes, and
its´ efficiency related to student learning,
to review the implementation of AfL in PE classes,
to define adequate opportunities for the future usage of AfL in this
The study was a part of a self-assessment process within the PE department which refers to
the 10-year-accreditation visit in 2015. Focused on daily experiences and reflection upon
them, this study was carried out during the regular departmental meetings and routines at the
Franconian International School, Erlangen (Germany).
Six physical education teachers were involved in curriculum delivery throughout the school
year and could all equally contribute to this examination. The observed physical education
instructional processes included all elementary school physical education classes (Grade
levels 1 through 5 with a total of 230 boys and girls, aged 6-11). All the student participants
followed, in generally, the International Primary Curriculum (adopted by the FIS in school
year 2005/2006), and the newly developed FIS Physical Education Curriculum based on a
developmental continuum. This new PE approach is very supportive to the IPC PE specialist
program, and allows students to work directly on specific benchmarks (skills or behaviors)
and, in upper grades, set personal goals to achieve stage and phase improvements. The
amount of PE teaching time was set from two to four lessons per week, depending on the
grade level.
Obviously, addressing everyday situations in physical education classes and the
implementation of Assessments for Learning within these situations was the main focus. To
accomplish this study, a critical examination of teachers´ experiences relating to Assessment
for Learning was made throughout and following the school year
2014/15 with
recommendations for further implementation of AfL into everyday physical education
practice in an international context.
The Franconian International School Physical Education department first implemented
Assessments for Learning into the instructional practice in school year 2014/15 with the aim
to further enhance student learning. Nonetheless, this was related to some significant
philosophical and practical changes to the PE program. Reflection, feedback, authentic
assessment, individualized goal-setting, and real-time reporting became key elements of a PE
lesson and the learning of the students that year. Students were assessed throughout the
school year using a procedural assessment approach, in other words, assessment and learning
were ongoing. The majority of assessments were formative, which means, during all classes
and at all times. Standardized comparative performance evaluations were not emphasized as
an assessment method.
The foundations for teaching and learning, which occurs in FIS elementary school physical
education, were on one hand the IPC PE learning goals and on the other hand the FIS PE
learning outcomes. These all could have actually been criteria against which the assessment
took place in practice. However, there were too many learning goals to assess and therefore
some choices had to be made.
The complete list of learning goals included not only skills that refer to things students are
able to do but also knowledge, behaviors and understandings. While knowledge refers to
factual information, understandings adverts to the consideration of big ideas and these are
always developing. The IPC program says “You can´t teach understanding, but can provide a
wide range of different experiences through which children´s understanding can deepen”
(IPC, Assessment for Learning, 2014, p.33). Knowing that assessment for learning is actually
skill-based it was decided not to assess knowledge and understanding at this stage of
As a result of an overall consideration, the FIS PE department decided to only implement
formative assessment forms throughout the year, and then reflect on them in hindsight.
Guided by the preset IPC learning goals and targets as well as the FIS PE learning outcomes
related to physical and personal development, the teaching team collaboratively made a
choice in favor of the most important ones for each age-range of students as shown in Figure
1 to Figure 5.
FIGURE 1. FIS Grade One PE Teaching and Learning Goals, 2014-2015
While the IPC program is divided into Mileposts, the FIS PE curriculum is phase-based. For
this reason it was necessary to link learning goals accordingly to grade (age) levels. The FIS
PE teaching staff attempted to establish assessments for learning that are aligned to both
curricula. All selected teaching and learning goals for Grade One are shown in Figure 1.
Since Grade Two and Grade Three are both part of the IPC Milepost 2, it made sense to
evenly distribute IPC learning targets among these two grade levels. The detailed overview is
shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3.
FIGURE 2. FIS Grade Two PE Teaching and Learning Goals, 2014-2015
FIGURE 3. FIS Grade Three PE Teaching and Learning Goals, 2014-2015
The IPC Milepost 3 program is designed for students aged 9 - 12 years which in this case
covered Grade Four and Grade Five. The IPC learning targets were, once again, distributed
among both grade levels accordingly.
FIGURE 4. FIS Grade Four PE Teaching and Learning Goals, 2014-2015
FIGURE 5. FIFS Grade Five PE Teaching and Learning Goals, 2014-2015
In order to analyze sources of assessment evidence being used during the course of the year
the teachers completed a self-assessment survey (Wiggins & McTighe, 2010, p. 18) rating
their “level of use” on the following scale:
frequent use
use sometimes
occasional use
do not use
Each of the following assessment methods and tools were listed in the survey:
selected-response format (e.g. multiple-choice, true-false) quizzes and tests
written/oral responses to academic prompts (short-answer format)
performance assessment tasks, such as:
o extended written products (e.g. essays, reports)
o visual products (e.g. posters, visual presentations using various apps)
o oral performances (e.g. oral report, foreign language dialogues)
o demonstrations (e.g. skill performance)
long-term, “authentic” projects
portfolios - collections of student work over time (e.g. e-Portfolios)
reflective journals or learning logs
informal, ongoing observations of students
formal observations of students using observable indicators or criterion list
student self-assessments
peer reviews and peer response groups.
From the survey results it could be identified that all six teachers rated only two assessment
tools with a “4” (i.e. frequent use): performance assessment tasks and informal, ongoing
observations of students. Since the teachers involved were all satisfied with the evidence
collected, the assessments tools seemed to be chosen appropriately for the desired results.
Understandably, choosing a form of assessment was not enough. In order to effectively
implement them, first it was necessary to construct task scenarios. These would become
examples of the skill in action. Knowing that they help teachers to develop a shared
knowledge and awareness of what each of the skills mean, task scenarios were assigned
collaboratively within the PE department. The scenarios used in this case study clearly
identified which skills were practiced in a particular activity.
Example 1:
(Be able to take part in a range of individual, pair, small group and team activities - IPC PE
Skill 2.6)
In the IPC unit “Saving the World - Rainforests” PE Task 1, the children work in
groups to plan and perform a dance to represent the rainforest. The children share
their ideas and work in their groups to plan, practice and improve movements for their
dance. Each group can then perform their dance to the rest of the class. If time allows,
groups could work together and try to incorporate all ideas into the whole class dance
Example 2:
(Be able to plan their own performance - IPC PE Skill 3.5)
In the activity “Invent a Game”, the children work in group of 3-4 to create a new
game. Each group is given 2-4 pieces of equipment (for example balls, hula-hoops,
skipping ropes, benches, cones, or no equipment). The children share their ideas when
creating a game that uses all of the pieces of equipment and includes all of the
students who are going to play the game. Each group presents and shows off their
game to the rest of the class. In presentation the children need to explain the rules and
show how to include all players in the game. After all groups present their games, the
class can try them out.
Consequently, they are two possible ways in using scenarios. If the skill that was aimed to be
assessed was detailed in an activity currently being done, the activity could be used to assess
the student´s learning. Clearly, identifying examples of the skills in action by reviewing what
activities are occurring at that particular moment or being planned for the future is just one
way of using performance task scenarios. An additional opportunity would be to construct
completely new scenarios considering the set of stem statements (Wiggins & McTighe, 2010,
p. 29).
In the next stage of implementation, clear performance criteria for each of the chosen skills
were articulated in the form of a teacher’s and student’s rubric. Both teacher and student
rubrics related directly to a certain skill at a particular age level and were not exchangeable
between skills.
Teacher rubrics had a clear explanation of a student´s learning-in-action within one particular
learning stage. These rubrics detailed exactly how a student performs in each level of
progression. For example (Figure 6), when assessing a skill in accordance with IPC learning
goals, these levels were differentiated between “beginning”, “developing” and “mastering”.
(Be able to take part in a range of individual, pair, small group and team activities - IPC PE
Skill 2.6)
FIGURE 6. Teacher´s Rubric
The context of student´s rubric for the specific skill was actually identical to the teacher
rubrics only written in an age-appropriate, simplified language so that students could
understand them. These rubrics were used to enable students to actively get involved in the
assessment process and share ownership of their learning. By using student rubrics, each
child could individually assess his/her own learning, which as a result, made him/her aware
of how they were developing their skills.
Example 1:
(Be able to take part in a range of individual, pair, small group and team activities - IPC PE
Skill 2.6)
FIGURE 7. Student´s Rubric (Example 1)
Example 2:
(Be able to exhibit effective form for executing specific tactile movements - FIS PE Skill
FIGURE 8. Student´s Rubric (Example 2)
Analyzing the usage of teacher and student rubrics as a part of the Assessment for Learning
process in elementary school physical education made it possible to identify opportunities for
their implementation in all ranges of actions as well as in all segments of one particular
physical activity
(i.e. before, during and after). The rubrics could also successfully be
combined with a variety of assessment methods: oral, visual and written.
Learning advice eventually completed the whole Assessment for Learning process. It was
used as an additional assistance tool to give students concrete practical suggestions on how to
further progress and develop a particular skill. The learning advice was proved to be of a
great importance since it provided specific information about the ways students could
consolidate their learning and move from one stage to another on the developmental
continuum. This advice is always skill-specific, it might address range of individual, group or
whole class activities, it could be formal or informal, written or in a verbal form. This is also
where parents could possibly get involved in a learning process (i.e. parent reflection).
However, with or without parents involved, the learning advice definitely becomes the action
steps for both students and teachers.
FIGURE 9. Learning Advice (Example)
In summary, following the IPC advice in combination with the Understanding by Design
approach it was agreed on to take three factors into account when choosing which learning
goals to assess. Identifying the desired results in answering the question “What do we want
students to take away from this learning?” pointed first to the fact that the chosen learning
goal must be of crucial importance to physical and personal development of our students.
Consequently, all the targeted knowledge, skills and sub-skills, as well as understandings
were listed and then those skills were picked out that teachers thought were essential or at
least highly desirable in the PE area.
The next key factor when choosing learning goals to be assessed was their complexity. By no
means, teaching and learning time should have suffered due to assessment implementation.
With this in mind the acceptable evidence was determined.
Third, it was emphasized that the assessment results should allow and support practical action
for improvement. This however could only take place when students and parents were given
feedback that included learning advice.
Finally, it had to always be clear what the purpose of the particular assessment actually was.
This case study examined the teaching practices in the area of physical education by actively
including elementary school students in their own learning process by introducing and
implementing Assessments for Learning in their PE lessons.
Since the examination was concluded by the FIS PE teachers themselves, based upon the
school teaching and learning principles, it was obviously an advantage to the school and
students involved, to prove that using learning portfolios
(i.e. individual student
developmental continuums including numerous AfL evidences) to monitor and direct student
progress on selected learning goals is the most effective method.
Formative assessment, in general, proved to be an extremely valuable tool in PE practice,
especially when used to improve student learning. Another advantage is that it is a
continuous, ongoing process, and when regularly used it provides feedback to both students
and the teacher. The students benefit from Assessments for Learning by refining their skills,
while teachers can use them as a foundation on which to base future planning and practice.
All the FIS PE teachers involved in this study were on the same page concluding that
assessments for learning should be central to their goal of guiding the students through the
learning process.
Still, from experiences made and from a judgement about implementing assessments for
learning in physical education practice at the elementary school level the conclusion was
drawn that applying assessments for learning in routine PE classes is very time-consuming.
Not only the appropriate time slots need to be allocated but also the whole structure needs to
be reconsidered. This includes identifying adequate scenarios, considering and creating
rubrics, reflections (teacher´s, student´s and possibly parent´s), giving feedback as well as
communicating learning advice.
This paper clearly points out that implementation of Assessments for Learning in physical
education instructional practice in elementary school resonates well with the student-oriented
approach as well as the learning-focused approach. If implemented according to teaching and
learning principles Assessment for Learning can be effective in:
● improving student learning as well as teaching practice;
● involving frequent opportunities for students to be assessed in authentic
● engaging learners in the reflection of their learning;
● providing evidences of students´ knowledge, skills and understanding.
The FIS PE teaching staff also believes that assessments for learning should be accurate, fair,
honest and reliable. They should be modified to suit individual students if necessary. Their
form should be user-friendly for both teachers and students. Assessment for Learning should
always be positive and should encourage student growth and development. It should be
challenging, but still engaging, relevant and significant. It should also be cumulative,
consistent and valid. Assessment for learning should be able to cover a broad spectrum of
understanding, knowledge and skills, while being linked to or suited to the tasks undertaken.
Last but not least, Assessment for Learning should be clear, concise and as culturally neutral
as possible.
This should not be only relevant to elementary school physical education, but could also
apply to all curricula and subject areas.
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