Over the last 5 years, through Comenius, my current school has built a link with a school in Denmark. Every year teachers from both schools visit each other to observe, to share ideas and to talk about the similarities and differences in education between our two schools and countries. One area that really interested me was a form of oral assessment that took place as part of their examination process before students left to go to High School or follow a vocational education through an apprenticeships system. I have always thought this approach would be part of good method to assess students in Physical Education, particularly knowledge and understanding on how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. However PE was not a subject that was expected to be assessed or graded at all in Denmark. Until this year.
School in Denmark takes place from 6 to 16. There is no regular testing, with national tests in the 9th Grade (or 10th) taken before moving on to High School or following a vocational route as High School is not compulsory.
The tests in Grade 9 are as follows:
Mandatory – (must be taken)
2 x Maths
2 x Danish (one is focused on spelling)
2 x Science
The rest of the subjects that are examined are picked by the Government, school by school and class by class. They are usually oral or practical based assessments from languages including (English, French, German or Latin), citizenship, history, art, music, drama etc, but this left to the school to decide. Therefore 9a might be asked to be assessed in English, 9b in history and 9c music. The Government will inform the school which exams they want the classes to take.
Last month the teachers of health and physical education came over to visit us and they explained that the Danish Government plans to have a PE assessment for students for the first time this year. Whilst PE has been a compulsory part of their curriculum at school they have never had to grade or assess. They are still unsure what is expected, as it was only decided at the beginning of the academic year for the students leaving school. They felt this raised some problems. Firstly that they haven’t been assessing at all in PE and secondly the variety and range of teaching quality and approaches within PE. The Danish teachers explained that much of PE in Denmark was sport focussed and approached very much like a coach rather than as a teacher. However they emphasised that physical education was used to make children and young people aware of their responsibility for their own lives, and show them how to be socially involved in a local community.
This is their understanding of what is going to happen in June with regards to PE if a Grade 9 Class is chosen to take the PE assessment:
Pupils can be called in 2s, 3s, 4s or 5s (I believe this can be decided by the pupils in advance) to a internal and external assessor (the external assessor is usually from another school).
2s – 35 minute assessment
3s – 45 minute assessment
4s – 55 minute assessment
5s – 65 minute assessment
The format will be part practical (2/3 of the time allocated) and part oral examination (1/3 of the time allocated).
They will be asked to perform something from one of these Topics:
Dance and Expression
Body Balance (Parkour or Acrobatics)
The students will be told the topic in advance, but I’m not sure how long they will have to prepare. Part of the preparation is to write a synopsis of what they are going to perform and why they are performing it. This will be given to the external moderator. All pupils in the group have to participate in all elements of the assessment. Once into the assessment the students will be expected to perform the practical session in the chosen topic. They need to demonstrate basic skills, progressions, games and tactical or compositional understanding. One element I really like in ‘Ball Games’ is that students are able to create their own within the curriculum and they may demonstrate this as part of their practical assessment, explaining the concepts and the rules behind the game.
The oral exam then proceeds the practical. This is based on a Q and A on topics they have studied through PE over the years; Olympics Games, Fair Play, Gender issues within PE and Happiness and Sport. Then the will received questions based on the synopsis they produced on their practical piece and any questions that come out of the observation of the performance. Once competed the students will know their grades for their examination by the end of the day.
As I previously stated I have often thought a oral examination would work well in PE, especially for the cognitive elements and understanding of our subject. To record an interview with a student when they arrive in Year 7 and then compare it to their interview in Year 11, would give us the evidence our education system craves. It is something that I would like to try with a single class in the future to see if their is any merit in carrying it, or whether it will be another time consuming task that offers no real insight into a students progress in PE at school.
Whilst as a teacher I think this form of assessment has many merits, especially the Q and A and the dialogue that might provoke, I think though this is a very stressful process to put the students through. Pupils that might lack self confidence within PE, would probably struggle in this environment, but the option to have peers who are friends within the assessment group might act to counteract that. The Q and A element will require students to react and think on their feet with answers and I already know some very good student of mine in PE would find this difficult, but then it is much more of a reflection of the real situation of PE and physical activity,
As with most assessment in PE, due to the practical nature of the subject, it is subjective. I have found that in some cases during oral exams presentation skills and the general level of confidence of the student can have a big impact on the grade a student would get. I know from the pupils I teach they think a written examination would be a fairer process, but then it wouldn’t allow assessment in the multiple learning domains of PE.
This assessment takes place in June and my Danish colleagues have promised to write to me and give me their reflections of the whole process once they have been through it. They believe that this assessment process will have a big impact on the way PE is taught and delivered in schools in Denmark and that many teachers will require a lot of professional development to ensure their students get the best results they can.
NB. There may be some errors in my understanding of the examination process due to the language difficulties on some of the technical terms. If anyone has a better insight and more accurate knowledge of the upcoming Danish PE assessment, please let me know and I will updated my post.