Curriculum PE

Assessment without Levels in PE

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


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




+ 2


Action Point To further develop body tension and control whilst moving To demonstrate levels of physical effort shown in football to other activities




– 1


Action Point To encourage teammates when participating in team games To understand the basic benefits and reasons of a dynamic warm-up
Overall Progress


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.

By @ImSporticus

Lecturer in PE, Sport and Physical Activity. Helping others to flourish through movement.

19 replies on “Assessment without Levels in PE”

Are you not worried about students gaining a minus grade at the end of the year. Could this not be detrimental to their development? Maybe have a scale from 1 to 5 rather than -2 to +2? Otherwise I like the idea.

All the formative assessment I do in MYP PHE has no grades. I believe formative assessment should be student led depending on your learning outcomes/objectives etc.

Students should always be aware of how they are being assessed and with which criterion. Assessment tasks should be available to students to see at the beginning of each unit so they know where they are heading.


Hi Dominique. Thanks for the post. Am I worried about students getting a ‘minus grade’ at the end of the year? Yes and no. Yes as it means we would need to review why, what support needs to be given and what we could do differently as teachers. Does your current system allow to see where pupils have regressed and therefore allow you to plan for specific intervention and support? No as the grades won’t be shared so I don’t think this would be detrimental to their development. They are there for evidence alone. No as progress is never linear. Growth spurts and puberty can have a huge impact on pupils development in physical education. The system takes this into account and looks at development over 5 years in fundamental outcomes to physical literacy and not activity based outcomes.

You are right. Students should be aware how they are being assessed. Having 4 agreed targets (each one from a different learning domain) that have grown out of discussion with the teacher and are individual to them is their criteria. These can change as the individual changes, adapts, progresses and develops. It becomes about reflecting on previous bests or current performance and working on how to try to improve them so learning occurs.

I have only ever worked in a system of criteria based assessment. In the UK this has now gone and schools and departments have been allowed to design their own assessment systems. Criteria based assessment always seemed a little too restrictive and focus on skills within a sport. I wanted to try something different that focussed on the work produced and away from what I have spent the last 14 years doing which always had problems.


I really like the idea of Ipsative assessment. I think it makes learning more personal for the pupil and acts as a great motivational tool. Pupils will always know who the ‘best and worst’ in the subject are and I don’t think they need to know their ranking in this respect (as you explained that this data will remain confidential).
One difficulty I can see with this model, as you pointed out, is the high level of knowledge required about a wide variety of sports as well as the pupils being taught. I fully understand the argument that these are part of being a great teacher, however I think the reason that they are so sought after in teaching is because so many teachers lack these areas of knowledge. I think this AfL would be exceptionally difficult to implement for any NQT or even a teacher joining a new school. I believe that areas of teaching/AfL should not be excluded just because something is difficult but they could be key variables that would make moderation/class grades difficult and more varied between different teachers and even different schools.
I wish I could come up with solutions! Sorry.


Hi Adam. I agree that lack of teacher subject knowledge is going to be a key factor in whether this assessment model can be successful and sustainable. However that hopefully will be a motivator of all in the department to share knowledge and help each other improve. Our curriculum is pretty stable with regards to activities and content, any changes would be to reduce breadth for more depth. They point you make about NQT’s I think probably applies to all of us in the department, no matter how long we have taught, we could always do with improving the basics of PE Teaching. Observing, analysing and giving feedback are essential skills to be a good PE Teacher and those basics should be worked up and revisited at all times through your career. I think the next step is just to trial it with a class over the year and see the strengths and weaknesses with it and whether is a viable model in today’s data driven schools.


So in the IB MYP we do use four criterion. Essentially these are based on the students knowledge, planning, performance and Reflection.

Although the assessment is criterion based we teach through concepts and through inquiry. It is supposed to be child centered with the inquiry being guided y the teacher but led through the students.

We also teach Health as part of the Subject. This allows us to teach stand alone health units through concepts and inquiry but also link some health units to the practical units.

Students are assessed in each criterion three times during the year so have an opportunity to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and make improvements where necessary. This is done through student meetings and parent conferences. Also in class one to one feedback really helps the student understand where they need to make improvements.

You should have a look at the MYP framework it may give you some ideas.

Here my website I am developing with some ideas about what we do:


The reason I like this is the assumption that assessment is momentary. An assessment of any kind is only valid for the time frame of the assessment. No assessment can measure learning or future potential despite our continuous practice to the contrary in education.

You, Sir, are on to something here.


Liked by 1 person

Thanks J. At least within Curriculum PE I’ve always had my issues with how assessment is done and then used; a summative assessment at the end of a unit of work. It isn’t useful for further development as that activity won’t be done again for another year (and how many PE Teachers do you know would use that data to inform their teaching the following year). It doesn’t really help the student understand their own strengths and areas of development. Finally are we really measuring learning or performance in that one off lesson?

I want to develop an assessment that is holistic and takes a longitudinal approach to the curriculum. With the ultimate goal a personal best, this means that the idea of failure to meet an external goal does not apply. The pupil who achieves a personal best in a race, game or activity does not have to win. Winning becomes irrelevant.

I feel this takes away the competitive element and focuses on the journey our pupils take and the decisions they make. This reflects what they will do once they leave school. It is still a little vague and obviously hasn’t been tested inside a working PE Dept. This year I will trial and see if it a workable viable option for assessment within PE.


I see I’m a little late to the discussion, but I wanted to actually have time to sit, read, and understand the idea. I think it’s a great idea for the same reasons everyone has already listed. As I was reading though I noticed there were some terms that need to be more fully either defined or explained.

Through the context I got a vague understanding, but I’m still not sure I understand what you mean,

Here they are:

“action point” (I think it has to do with the student-teacher interviews and the 4 learning domains)
“core tasks” (From where do these originate?)
“real time” (I don’t understand what this means. it is in connection with “real learning”)
“improvement targets” (are these related to “core tasks”?)

Also this phrase:

“Obviously this judgement is informal, subjective and might only be on performance and not that real learning has taken place.”

Especially the last part about real learning not occurring needs to be changed or better defined because “real learning” is presumably what education is about and I think it confuses your message as you are obviously trying to show that real personal learning is happening.

Hopefully this has not come across as overly critical as I really think this is an excellent idea. Your 8th point in the outcomes section is one of the most accurately and succinctly worded phrases about our desire as Health PE teachers that I think I’ve ever read. That students would be able “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”. I can’t say it better than that.

Keep up the good work!



Hi Darrell,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I have found it very useful to help me reflect on the the assessment framework.

– Action Point – This is the target or plan of action that is agreed between the teacher and the pupil for a focus of development.
– Core Tasks – A poor way of describing the activities within a lesson where formative assessment could be used. I will re-think how to phrase that as it is vague. The tasks themselves would be down to the individual teacher.
– Real Time – that they get feedback there and then in a lesson, rather than in a report later on, which means they don’t have the chance to use that information to develop.
– Improvement tasks – same as the action points, but a better term to understand.

With regards to the phrase you point out, this post might add clear up some of the issues. Basically I don’t feel learning can essentially occur in one lesson. For real learning to occur there has to be retention and transfer. This is why I’m against end of unit assessments based on criteria as they only show the performance there and then, not whether learning has occurred. The assessment would have to be repeated again at a later date for us to better judge learning.

Critique is good and it challenges me to justify, explain or improve. I thank you for helping me in that process.


Hi,….Sporticus…? (I took a second to try and find your actual name so I wasn’t being rude, but couldn’t so..)

I’m going to confess I’ve been checking back at this blog post to see what your response would be. These definitions make more sense and now that I have a better understanding of where you are coming from (after reading the other post) the whole framework makes a lot more sense.

And, in relation to real learning, I completely agree that we measure movement performance as opposed to movement learning. I hope that we don’t start to make too sharp of a division between the two terms as performance is contingent on learning. Performance cannot improve unless I have learned how to perform better. So I understand why you said that about learning.

I wonder though if it is reasonable to say that if I can’t replicate something I have learned in the past it means I haven’t learned, or didn’t learn it. Just the other day I went to tie a climbers knot that I had learned about 4 years ago (using it every day for 2 months) and realized I couldn’t remember how to do it! I had forgotten. Does that mean I never actually learned how to do it? I’m not sure it’s fair to say that, as after watching a video and practicing once or twice (reminding myself) I can do it easily again as if I’d never forgotten. I have been a basketball player since I was a teen, but every time I play basketball I make little mistakes in my dribbling and shooting. Does that mean I never learned how to do those things? (Well maybe) But I think it is as simple as the old axiom “if you don’t use it you lose it” Our brains are continuously pairing down on things that we are not currently in need of, but if I need something again a simple reminder does the trick to bring me back to proficiency.

Similarly, I have struggled with trying to teach students, how to hit a tennis ball correctly for example, and the ones who have taken tennis lessons before show incredible improvement from their first few hits to the end of the unit. But the ones who have never tried tennis before don’t. That doesn’t mean the second set are less physically adept or even that I’m a bad teacher, it simply shows that the first set of students have learned something previously and remember how to do it, continuing to improve upon their skills. Whereas the true learners are having to struggle through the process of learning how, where, and when to hit the ball correctly.

Just as it is unfair to say that I have never learned how to tie a climbers knot or play basketball it is not reasonable to say that students who can’t (at the drop of a hat) replicate something they did a semester ago have not learned. This is leading me to believe that the best way to measure learning would be a video portfolio that would document student performances at various degrees of learning for all the various physical skills. Wow that would be a lot of work.

Anyways, I’m sorry I didn’t stumble upon your blog earlier as this is really helping me think about what I do.

Keep up the good work!



Hi Darrell.

A video portfolio would be a wonderful way for pupils (and teachers) to log and chart progress. It would help them to reflect and implement their own plans for development and progress. I’m sure there may come a time when the technology to do this is simple, effortless and easily fits within our teaching and doesn’t take away from the pupils learning. However I think currently this would be a very time consuming and difficult project to do, especially on a full teaching load, extra-curricular responsibility and possibly wider school responsibility if PE teachers have them. Perhaps this is the future of our subject and profession. Technology has lots to offer offer our subject and perhaps we should be looking at it as a form of pedagogy (even if I’m personally against bringing into the PE environment).


[…] On Monday I had a chance to have a look at the baseline assessment of our Year 7 Pupils. I have written about my departments approach previously, and whilst it might not be the most scientifically sound process it has worked for us. Our main reasoning was to ensure we could give realistic targets for our pupils at KS 3 PE rather than those set by Maths and English SATs scores. However with level descriptors gone and a new ipsative approach to assessment in PE being trialled t…. […]


Hi Sporticus, very interesting blog, really enjoyed reading it and it has made me continue to reflect on what I think about assessment. I think it is an exciting time to be able to decide what we value and what we want to assess. I am currently battling with SLT to get them to appreciate that PE is a unique subject etc etc. However, I wondered how you are going to fit this approach in with having to report progress like the school wants us to (like academic subjects!) and how that relates to progress and attainment at GCSE level? I would really welcome your thoughts on this. Thank you for posting


Hi Bev. Thanks for your comment.

The simple answer is that I haven’t been able to get PE to have a unique reporting system. I have to fit the school system which currently is levels and then will transfer to GCSE grades from next year, neither of which are helpful for us. I will continue to develop he internal assessment system, which will be the driver of teaching and learning in PE. I will spend minimal time trying to get that system to match up with the school system. My email is, drop me a line if you want to take the conversation further.


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