In August last year I wrote about the proposed assessment without levels model that we were going to try within the department. This post is an update.
The scoring system in the original post was dropped pretty much immediately as it was felt it was a replication of levels which we wanted to try and move away from. The focus became about the joint creation of four targets with our students. One for each of the four domains of learning: the physical, social, cognitive and affective. These areas were explained to students in their first lesson of the year and they were asked to self reflect and set their targets. Students were guided through this and targets changed if inappropriate. The initial targets were transferred to google sheets. Then through appsheets, a free tool that can convert google sheets data to an application on mobile devices, access to these targets were available within lessons. The final result is this:
At any time, in any lesson, I know what my students targets are and I can engage them in a dialogue about them. This has fundamentally changed the dynamic within my lessons and the rest of the post will focus on this. Lets take ‘Albie’ in Year 7 as a case study. In the first lesson of the year I explained to Albie’s class about the four learning domains and asked them, after some self reflection, to set a target in each that they would like to achieve. This was Albie’s response:
|I would like to become stronger. This would help me in badminton with clears and smashes.||I don’t like making mistakes.
|I don’t like it when others make mistakes.
|I would like to get a better understanding of team sports like rugby and football.|
Usually the first lessons of the year are taken up with testing different components of health and skill related fitness to ensure we can give an ‘accurate’ base line level to every student. What those lessons wouldn’t have told me about Albie is:
- He is active outside of school
- He plays club badminton as he uses correct terminology
- He is a perfectionist – hard on himself and others
- He hasn’t got much experience of invasion games (this maybe linked to his perfectionism)
It also gave me a way of making a connection with him immediately. I could speak to him about his badminton and link what we were doing that term in rugby, gymnastics and dance to make it more meaningful and individual for him. We spoke about how gymnastics requires balance and muscular strength and how developing this could help with his badminton. He worked extremely hard on improving his weight on hands and was able to perform a cartwheel successfully for the first time. In his first rugby lesson he got very upset with himself when he dropped a pass, so much so he wouldn’t join back in with his team. Through the course of the term we worked together to come up with a system of counting and breathing exercises to help him calm down when mistakes were made and reengage with rugby as quickly as possible after making a mistake. We discussed how making mistakes were an essential part of learning and if you weren’t making them you went really learning. This took time to develop, but by Christmas there were very few instances of Albie getting upset. This gave him the confidence to try out for the school football team the following term. He made the B team and he told me it was the first time he had ever played for a school team as he always preferred activities he did by himself.
At anytime a student can asked to be assessed on the targets they set, they don’t have to wait for the standard end of unit assessment lesson that is typical of most PE programmes I have been in. If both the student and I feel that the target has been met, then together we set a new one. If not we talk about what needs to be done to achieve it. For example with Albie he had set a social target of not getting upset with others when they made mistakes. He was as hard on his peers as he was himself. However the calming techniques we discussed seemed to be working for him when in group work. Albie came to me one lesson and asked me to assess him on how he worked with his peers. We agreed at the end of the lesson that he had made lots of progress on achieving that target. Together we agreed that the next social target he would actively go out this way to encourage and support his peers, which is what he is currently working on in lessons. Once I have agreed targets have been met with the student and new ones agreed, I update this on the app.
This process of assessment is very different that what I am used to. Before it would be teach an activity. Assess the students performance in that activity, usually through an assessment lesson at the end of that unit. Assign each student a number based on a rubric, entering that number on a spread sheet for tracking and reporting purposes and to demonstrate progress. Never really to use that number again once the report is completed. It was time consuming. The data became irrelevant (the student and I could never remember what a Level 4 in football from last year actually meant for this year). Students were either making expected progress or not based on targets set by their previous test results in Maths and English. It really didn’t mean anything to anyone apart from feeding the spreadsheet.
Whilst this current system has a number of significant flaws that need to be rectified in the future (such as improved students goal setting, students can’t access data without teacher, relies heavily on the teacher to remind pupils of targets, doesn’t fit with whole school reporting system etc.). What it appears to do for both the student and I is build a narrative around learning. It becomes a tool that focuses on the holistic teaching and learning within PE. It allows for the non-linearity of learning with its peaks, dips and plateaus. Targets that we agreed that have been previously met, can be reset if needed, or more time can be taken to meet them. The learning isn’t activity by activity (although this still occurs), not to be touched upon till the following year when that activity is done again, but continuously throughout all activities and the whole of the curriculum from Year 7 to Year 11. As there are four targets, there is always at least one if not more that can be developed through the activity the student is learning. There is no level, no number, no grade, no label. There is only data that for me drives the conversation about improvement and learning, which can’t ever be distilled into a simple number within PE. Over the course of Year 7 to 11 we hopefully will be able to track the individual learning of each student within PE and build on their strengths and interests whilst at the same time supporting the gaps of own their physical education.
As always any feedback would be most welcome.