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Assessment without Levels in PE

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This is a draft hypothetical ‘assessment without levels’ model for curriculum PE. It is still at an early stage and many of the logistics of implementing it have not been fully thought through. It also does not match my school’s position with regards to levels which they want to continue to use. I would appreciated any feedback you might have regarding this model, especially on it’s limitations.

Draft Core PE Progress Framework (Year 7 to 11)

The moral purpose of our PE Curriculum is to develop physical literacy in all our students. This can be defined as:

‘The motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.’ (Whitehead, 2014)

We would want students to make progress in the following outcomes:

  • The development of physical competence
  • The confident participation of a wide variety of purposeful physical pursuits
  • Effective interaction in a wide variety of situations and environments
  • The development of self confidence and self esteem
  • Sensitive integration with others
  • Knowledge and understanding of the importance of physical activity in maintaining health
  • The commitment to participate in a range of purposeful physical pursuits
  • The ability to reflect realistically on personal strengths and to select appropriate purposeful physical activities in which to take part in both in and outside of the curriculum
  • An appreciation of the value of purposeful physical pursuits in their potential to enhance the quality of life

This model of assessment is ipsative based and built around the four learning domains of Physical Education. All four learning domains should be considered as important as each other. One should not be giving priority over another in the development of a child’s physical literacy.

Learning Domain Examples
The Physical Physical competence, technical competence
The Affective Motivation, confidence, commitment, effort
The Cognitive Knowledge, understanding, feedback, tactical, planning
The Social Empathy, leadership, communication, teamwork, accepting decisions

Each pupil is viewed as an individual and therefore their base line starts at 0. At any point of time a teacher and student can engage in an assessment, not specifically at the end of a unit. There is no target. No expected levels of progress, especially not linear progress. The only expectation is that students are working towards individual and personal progress in the four learning domains and that in Physical Education they are of equal weighting and importance.


+ 2 Both the student and the teacher agrees progress has been made
+ 1 Either the teacher or the student agrees that progress has been made and the other believes no progress has been made
0 The teacher and the student both agree that no progress or one believes progress has been made and the other believes negative progress has been made
– 1 Either the teacher or the student agrees that negative progress has been made and the other believes no progress has been made
– 2 Both the student and the teacher agrees negative progress has been made

After any formative assessment both the teacher and the pupil jointly decides on any action point linked to the outcomes of physical literacy for improvement. This is what the student will be working on with regards to progress for future lessons. This can be from any of the four domains. Hopefully over time the student will have one action point in each domain they can be working on in the purposeful physical activity they are taking part in.

The difficulty is not having any standards or criteria for the students to see. This relies on both the teacher and the pupil agreeing to set individual goals. If a pupil, through demonstration or the completion of core tasks, achieves the action point the teacher can assume that progress has been made. Obviously this judgement is informal, subjective and might only be on performance and not that real learning has taken place. However it is real time which gives the student and teacher an indication and allows both to work on improvement, rather than a very narrow end of unit assessment grade in an activity that might not be touched upon for another year.

For example:


Joe Bloggs
Physical Affective
Progress + 2 0
Action Point To further develop body tension and control whilst moving To demonstrate levels of physical effort shown in football to other activities
Social Cognitive
Progress – 1 +2
Action Point To encourage teammates when participating in team games To understand the basic benefits and reasons of a dynamic warm-up
Overall Progress +3

This model can then be used in Core PE from Year 7 to 11. At the start of each year the progress from previous year can be recorded and the grades reset back to 0 if wanted. This can take into account physical changes that might have occurred over the summer holidays because of puberty or activity done (or lack of activity). The actual scores are for the teachers, not shared with pupils. They are recorded if ‘evidence’ is require of performance, progress or learning. The key focus is the improvement targets that are verbalised lesson to lesson with the pupils.

This assessment model focuses on regular formative assessment and feedback encouraging a continual high quality verbal dialogue between student and teacher. This requires the teacher to be knowledgeable about the activity and also their students. It also focuses on progress as an outcome with no assumed baseline or finishing goal. Hopefully this will build self-belief and motivate the learner.

As students gain more experience and knowledge of this process, then they will be able to self and peer assess with more accuracy, but this needs to be explicitly taught as part of the curriculum. The hope is this will lead to them being able to make healthy and active decisions and improvement action points for themselves, which mimics what we want them to do in their lives outside and beyond school.

Physical Literacy is not an outcome. It is a journey. This progress framework tries to reflect that, facilitating pupils making better informed decisions and choices, that will allow them take charge of their own journey.

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