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Types of performance-based assessment

This is an excerpt from Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance, Fourth Edition With Web Study Guide, by James R. Morrow, Jr., PhD, Allen W. Jackson, EdD, James G. Disch, PED, and Dale P. Mood, PhD.

As previously mentioned, there are many types of performance-based assessments. Each type of assessment brings with it different strengths and deficiencies relative to credible and dependable information. Because it is virtually impossible for a single assessment tool to adequately assess all aspects of student performance, the real challenge comes in selecting or developing performance-based assessments that complement both each other and more traditional assessments to equitably assess students in physical education and human performance.

The goal for assessment is to accurately determine whether students have learned the materials or information taught and reveal whether they have complete mastery of the content with no misunderstandings. Just as researchers use multiple data sources to determine the truthfulness of the results, teachers can use multiple types of assessment to evaluate the level of student learning. Because assessments involve the gathering of data or information, some type of product, performance, or recording sheet must be generated. The following are some examples of various types of performance-based assessments used in physical education.

Using Observation in the Assessment Process

Human performance provides many opportunities for students to exhibit behaviors that may be directly observed by others, a unique advantage of working in the psychomotor domain. Wiggins (1998) uses physical activity when providing examples to illustrate complex assessment concepts, as they are easier to visualize than would be the case with a cognitive example. The nature of performing a motor skill makes assessment through observational analysis a logical choice for many physical education teachers. In fact, investigations of measurement practices of physical educators have consistently shown a reliance on observation and related assessment methods (Hensley and East 1989; Matanin and Tannehill 1994; Mintah 2003).

Observation is a skill used with several performance-based assessments. It is often used to provide students with feedback to improve performance. However, without some way to record results, observation alone is not an assessment. Going back to the definition of assessment provided earlier in the chapter, assessment is the gathering of information, analyzing the data, and then using the information to make an evaluation. Therefore, some type of written product must be produced if the task is considered an assessment.

Teachers and peers can assess others using observation. They might use a checklist or some type of event recording scheme to tally the number of times a behavior occurred. Keeping game play statistics is an example of recording data using event recording techniques. Students can self-analyze their own performance and record their performances using criteria provided on a checklist or a game play rubric. Table 14.1 is an example of a recording form that could be used for peer assessment.

When using peer assessment, it is best to have the assessor do only the assessment. When the person recording assessment results is also expected to take part in the assessment (e.g., tossing the ball to the person being assessed), he or she cannot both toss and do an accurate observation. In the case of large classes, teachers might even use groups of four, in which one person is being evaluated, a second person is feeding the ball, the third person is doing the observation, and a fourth person is recording the results.

Individual or Group Projects

Projects have long been used in education to assess a student’s understanding of a subject or a particular topic. Projects typically require students to apply their knowledge and skills while completing the prescribed task, which often calls for creativity, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis. Examples of student projects used in physical education and human performance include the following: demonstrating knowledge of invasion game strategies by designing a new game; demonstrating knowledge of how to become an active participant in the community by doing research on obesity and then developing a brochure for people in the community that presents ideas for developing a physically active lifestyle; demonstrating knowledge of fitness components and how to stay fit by designing one’s own fitness program using personal fitness test results; demonstrating knowledge of how to create a dance by video recording a dance that members of the group choreographed; and doing research on childhood games and teaching children from a local elementary school how to play them. Criteria for evaluating the projects are developed and the results of the project are recorded.

Group projects involve a number of students working together on a complex problem that requires planning, research, internal discussion, and presentation. Group projects should include a component that each student completes individually to avoid having a student receive credit for work that he or she did not do. Another way to avoid this issue is to have members of the group award paychecks to the various members of the group (e.g., split a $10,000 check) and provide justifications about the amount given to each person. To encourage reflections on the contributions of others, students are not allowed to give an equal amount to everyone. These “checks” are confidential and submitted directly to the teacher in an envelope that others in the group are not allowed to see.
The following example of a project designed for middle school or high school students involves a research component, analysis and synthesis of information, problem solving, and effective communication.


Portfolios are systematic, purposeful, and meaningful collections of an individual’s work designed to document learning over time. Since a portfolio provides documentation of student learning, the knowledge and skills that the teacher desires to have students document guides the structure of the portfolio. The type of portfolio, its format, and the general contents are usually prescribed by the teacher. Portfolio collections may also include input provided by teachers, parents, peers, administrators, or others.The guidelines used to format a portfolio will be based on the type of learning that the portfolio is used to document. The following are two basic types of portfolios:

  • Working portfolio—A repository of portfolio documents that the student accumulates over a certain period of time. Other types of process information may also be included, such as drafts of student work or records of student achievement or progress over time.
  • Showcase or model portfolio—A portfolio consisting of work samples selected by the student that document the student’s best work. The student has consciously evaluated his or her work and selected only those products that best represent the type of learning identified for this assessment. Each artifact selected is accompanied by a reflection, in which the student explains the significance of the item and the type of learning it represents.

It’s a good idea to limit the portfolio to a certain number of pieces of work to prevent the portfolio from becoming a scrapbook that has little meaning to the student and to avoid giving teachers a monumental evaluation task. This also requires students to exercise some judgment about which artifacts best fulfill the requirements of the portfolio task and document their level of achievement. The portfolio itself is usually a file or folder that contains the student’s collected work. The contents could include items such as a training log, student journal or diary, written reports, photographs or sketches, letters, charts or graphs, maps, copies of certificates, computer disks or computer-generated products, completed rating scales, fitness test results, game statistics, training plans, report of dietary analyses, and even video- or audio recordings. Collectively, the artifacts selected will document student growth and learning over time as well as current levels of achievement. The potential items that could become portfolio artifacts are almost limitless. Kirk (1997) suggests the following list of possible portfolio artifacts that may be useful for physical activity settings. A teacher would never require that a portfolio contain all of these items. The list is offered as a way to generate ideas for possible artifacts.

A rubric (scoring tool) should be used to evaluate portfolios in much the same manner as any other product or performance. Providing a rubric to students in advance allows them to self-assess their work and thus be more likely to produce a portfolio of high quality. Portfolios, since they are designed to show growth and improvement in student learning, are evaluated holistically. The reflections that describe the artifact and why the artifact was selected for inclusion in the portfolio provide insights into levels of student learning and achievement. Teachers should remember that format is less important than content and that the rubric should be weighted to reflect this. Table 14.2 illustrates a qualitative analytic rubric for judging a portfolio along three dimensions.

For additional information about portfolio assessments, Lund and Kirk (2010) have a chapter on developing portfolio assessments. An article published as part of a JOPERD feature presents a suggested scoring scale for a portfolio (Kirk 1997). Melograno’s Assessment Series publication (2000) on portfolios also contains helpful information.


Student performances can be used as culminating assessments at the completion of an instructional unit. Teachers might organize a gymnastics or track and field meet at the conclusion of one of those units to allow students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge that they gained during instruction. Game play during a tournament is also considered a student performance. Rubrics for game play can be written so that students are evaluated on all three learning domains (psychomotor, cognitive, and affective). Students might demonstrate their skills and learning in one of the following ways:

  • Performing an aerobics routine for a school assembly
  • Organizing and performing a jump rope show at the half-time of a basketball game
  • Performing in a folk dance festival at the county fair
  • Demonstrating wu shu (a Chinese martial art) at the local shopping mall
  • Training for and participating in a local road race or cycling competition

Although performances do not produce a written product, there are several ways to gather data to use for assessment purposes. A score sheet can be used to record student performance using the criteria from a game play rubric. Game play statistics are another example of a way to document performance. Performances can also be video recorded to provide evidence of learning.

In some cases teachers might want to shorten the time used to gather evidence of learning from a performance. Event tasks are performances that are completed in a single class period. Students might demonstrate their knowledge of net or wall game strategies by playing a scripted game that is video recorded during a single class. The ability to create movement sequences or a dance that uses different levels, effort, or relationships could be demonstrated during a single class period with an event task. Many adventure education activities that demonstrate affective domain attributes can be assessed using event tasks.

Student Logs

Documenting student participation in physical activity (NASPE Standard 3) is often difficult. Teachers can assess participation in an activity or skill practice trials completed outside of class using logs. Practice trials during class that demonstrate student effort can also be documented with logs. A log records behaviors over a period of time (see figure 14.1). Often the information recorded shows changes in behavior, trends in performance, results of participation, progress, or the regularity of physical activity. A student log is an excellent artifact for use in a portfolio. Because logs are usually a self-recorded document, they are not used for summative assessments unless as an artifact in a portfolio or for a project. If teachers wanted to increase the importance placed on a log, a method of verification by an adult or someone in authority should be added.


Journals can be used to record student feelings, thoughts, perceptions, or reflections about actual events or results. The entries in journals often report social or psychological perspectives, both positive and negative, and may be used to document the personal meaning associated with one’s participation (NASPE Standard 6). Journal entries would not be an appropriate summative assessment by themselves, but might be included as an artifact in a portfolio. Journal entries are excellent ways for teachers to “take the pulse” of a class and determine whether students are valuing the content of the class. Teachers must be careful not to assess affective domain journal entries for the actual content, because doing so may cause students to write what teachers want to hear (or give credit for) instead of true and genuine feelings. Teachers could hold students accountable for completing journal entries. Some teachers use journals as a way to log participation over time.

Read more about Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance, Fourth Edition With Web Study Guide.

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