Make solid decisions from measurement data and testing
Prospective professionals in kinesiology, human performance, physical activity, health promotion, and the fitness industry must understand measurement, testing, and evaluation because they will be making evaluative decisions daily. Our students, athletes, clients, and colleagues ask us what tools are best and how to interpret and evaluate performance and measurements. Regardless of your specific area of interest, the best tools to use and how to interpret data may be the most important concepts that you will study. Related evaluation concepts are objectivity (rater consistency), reliability (consistency), relevance (relatedness), and validity (truthfulness). These terms are discussed in greater detail in chapters 6 and 7.
There are many ways to use the evaluative process in human performance. For instance, consider the issue of accountability. Your employer might hold you accountable for a project; that is, you might be responsible for obtaining a particular outcome for an individual or program. Tests, measurement, and the evaluation processes are used to show whether you have met the goals. Obviously, you want the evaluation to accurately reflect the results of your work—assuming that you did a good job! Certainly, if you enter the teaching profession, you will hold your students accountable for learning and retaining the content of the courses you teach. Likewise, your students should hold you accountable for preparing the best possible tests for evaluating their class performance.
As you will discover during your course of study, you need considerable knowledge and skill to conduct correct and effective measurement and evaluation. As with any academic or professional effort, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the purposes of executing a measurement and evaluation process. There are six general purposes of measurement and evaluation: placement, diagnosis, prediction, motivation, achievement, and program evaluation.
An initial test and evaluation allow a professional to group students into instructional or training groups according to their abilities. In some cases, instruction, training, and learning in human performance can be facilitated by grouping participants according to their abilities. All participants in a group can then have a similar starting point and can improve at a fairly consistent rate. Obviously, it is difficult to teach a swimming class if half the students are nonswimmers and the others are members of the swim team, but even less extreme differences can affect learning.
Evaluation of test results is often used to determine weaknesses or deficiencies in students, medical patients, athletes, and fitness program participants. Cardiologists may administer treadmill stress tests to obtain exercise electrocardiograms of cardiac patients to diagnose the possible presence and magnitude of cardiovascular disease. Recall the measurement and evaluation challenge highlighted at the beginning of this chapter. The doctor made a diagnosis based on a number of physiological and behavioral measures. This was possible because of the known relationships between the measures and the incidence of heart disease. While there is currently much interest in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), there is also much interest in sedentary behaviors. The amount of MVPA and sedentary time in which one engages can be “diagnostic” of physically active lifestyle behaviors.
One of the goals of scientific research is to predict future events or results from present or past data. This is also one of the most difficult research goals to attain. You probably took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT) during your junior or senior year of high school. Your test scores can be viewed as predictors of your future success in college and perhaps were part of the admissions process used by your college or university. The exercise epidemiologist may use physical activity patterns, cardiovascular endurance measures, blood pressure, body fat, or other factors to predict your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The measurement and evaluation process is necessary for motivating your students and program participants. People need the challenge and stimulation they get from an evaluation of their achievement. There would not be any athletes if there were only practices and no games or competitions. When are you going to be most motivated to learn the material for this course? What would motivate you to study and learn the material for this course or any other if you knew you would not be tested and evaluated? Can you see how simply measuring your weight can be motivational? Likewise, knowing the number of steps one takes per day might provide impetus for increasing physical activity behaviors.
In a program of instruction or training, a set of objectives must be established by which participants’ achievement levels can be evaluated. For instance, in this course, your final achievement level will be evaluated and a grade will be assigned on the basis of how well you met objectives set forth by the instructor. Developing the knowledge and skills needed for proper grading is one objective of this book; chapters 13 and 14 are devoted to the topics of assessment and grading. Improvement in human performance is an important goal in instruction and training programs, but it is very difficult to evaluate fairly and accurately. Is final achievement level going to be judged with criterion-referenced standards on a pass/fail basis or with norm-referenced standards and grades? Assessment of achievement is a summative evaluation task that requires measurement and evaluation.
You may have to conduct program evaluations in the future to justify your treatment, instruction, and training programs. The goal of program evaluation is to demonstrate (with sound evidence) the successful achievement of program objectives to your superiors. Perhaps you have a program objective of increasing MVPA in your community. You desire to measure behavior changes with self-reported MVPA and pedometer steps. You would measure the physical activity behaviors and then make decisions based on the data you obtain. Alternatively, if you are a physical education teacher, you may be asked to demonstrate that your students are receiving appropriate physical fitness experiences. You might compare your students’ fitness test results with the test results of students in your school district or with national test norms. You might gather student and parent evaluations of your program. Professionals in community, corporate, or commercial fitness centers can evaluate their programs in terms of membership levels and participation, participant test results, participant evaluations, and physiological assessments. Your job and professional future could depend on your being able to conduct a comprehensive and effective program evaluation.