This chapter addresses the role of assessment in teaching and learning games. How can we accurately and fairly assess what students have learned? When understanding is the purpose of instruction, assessment is more than evaluation; it is a substantive contribution to learning (Blythe and Associates 1998).Assessment that fosters understanding (i.e., that goes beyond evaluation) has to be more than a test at the end of the unit. It must inform students and teachers of what students currently understand and of how to proceed with subsequent teaching and learning. Integrated performance and feedback is exactly what students need as they develop their understanding of particular concepts. Ongoing assessment is the process of providing students with clear responses to their demonstrations of understanding in a way that improves subsequent performances.
Integrating assessment with instruction can help learning by providing feedback that teachers and their students can use to assess themselves and one another and to modify their activities. According to Black and colleagues (2004), there are two main problems with assessment: (a) the methods that teachers use do not promote good learning; and (b) feedback often has a negative impact, particularly on low-achieving students, who then believe that they lack ability and so are not able to learn. As Oslin (2005) pointed out, the role of assessment in tactical games teaching is that it ensures that students develop the skillfulness, competence, and confidence needed to play games. In this chapter we examine what to assess and what your students should know and be able to do (i.e., learning outcomes), aligning assessment with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) standards (National Association for Sport and Physical Education 2004). We share our beliefs about assessment and then outline practical considerations for assessing students.
We have four major beliefs about assessment: (a) it should be ongoing and regular, (b) it should be authentic, (c) planning what to teach is the same as planning what to assess, and (d) assessment should serve as a system of checks and balances for teaching and learning.
We believe that assessment should be an ongoing and regular part of teaching sport-related games—ongoing in that it is an expected part of a unit, and regular in that it is routine to every lesson. Assessment can be for summative purposes (assigning grades) and for formative purposes (checking on student progress, providing feedback for diagnosing strengths and weaknesses). Summative assessment, usually evaluation, involves systematically determining the extent to which objectives have been met (Veal 1993). Summative assessment can be based on several formative assessments taken over the course of a unit. Formative assessment provides feedback for you and your individual students about the strengths and weaknesses of performances as well as checks on student progress. Every tactical games lesson includes a segment of questions and answers that is a measure of formative assessment. Using a variety of summative and formative assessments throughout a unit not only gives you a picture of your students’ learning, but also provides your students with in-depth knowledge about what they should learn in the unit (Zessoules and Gardner 1991).
Another valuable aspect of ongoing assessment is that it gives you many opportunities to find out what your students already know about games. The role of prior knowledge in games teaching is important for two reasons. First, students generally know about games because they have played them in their neighborhoods or in community leagues or have watched them as spectators. Because of all of these possible experiences, students’ knowledge may differ from the desired knowledge (Clement 1993; Griffin and Placek 2001; Wandersee, Mintzes, and Novak 1994). Second, students may have alternative conceptions about various aspects of game play. For example, they may have ideas about their roles in particular games positions or about how to get open in an invasion game to support teammates. Alternative conceptions are reasonably different ideas about an aspect of game play that are based on a learner’s experience and are brought into formal instruction (Dodds, Griffin, and Placek 2001; Wandersee, Mintzes, and Novak 1994). As a teacher, you should acknowledge that your students usually know something about games playing; you need to have a sense of this prior knowledge to build developmentallyappropriate instruction.
Assessment should be authentic. When implementing a tactical games approach, because the goal is for students to focus on successful game play, your assessment should also focus on game play (Veal 1993).
Typically, physical educators rely on skills testing to assess game performance, and there are many examples of common skills tests in any measurement textbook. Using skills tests to assess game performance is problematic for four reasons: they do not predict playing performance, they do not take into account the social dimensions of games, they measure skills out of context, and they do not reflect a broader view of game performance (Mitchell, Oslin, and Griffin 2003; Oslin, Mitchell, Griffin 1998).
Planning what to teach is the same as planning what to assess. This notion of integrating instructional goals with instructional processes and assessment is known as instructional alignment (Cohen 1987). Instructional alignment helps the teacher establish a relationship of assessment to the goals and learning activities of a lesson or unit, thus informing students of expected learning outcomes. Each tactical lesson in part II begins with the tactical problem to be solved, a lesson focus, and specific lesson objectives. Considering these aspects of instructional alignment in your planning will help you limit your scope of content (to doing a few things well), allowing time for assessment and enhancing your ability to sequence the games’ content appropriately. The relationship of the assessment criteria to what has been taught is critical for performance in game situations (Mitchell and Oslin 1999a). Ongoing assessment should have established criteria, and these criteria should be
- clear—articulated explicitly at the beginning of each performance,
- relevant—closely related to the goals for the unit, and
- public—all students in the class know and understand the criteria (Blythe and Associates 1998).
For example, in a tactical games lesson, you ask your students to confront a situation or problem, engage in an action situation (i.e., practice or game) to solve the problem, and reflect on their actions (i.e., critical thinking). This instructional process helps you and your students stay focused during each learning activity as you ask yourself, what aspects of the lesson do I want my students to reflect on? Answering this question will help you decide what type of assessment measures (e.g., assessing game play, asking questions) to use.
Assessment can serve as a system of checks and balances for teaching and learning in that it holds you accountable for teaching and your students responsible for learning (James, Griffin, and France 2000). It helps you improve your instruction and helps your students understand the expected learning outcomes. As noted by Oslin, Collier, and Mitchell (2001), assessment is necessary not only to evaluate the extent to which students have learned lesson content, but also to ensure that they stay focused. Ongoing assessment should provide feedback that
- occurs frequently from the beginning to the end of the unit;
- is both formal and planned and more casual and informal;
- provides students with information not only about how well they have carried out performances but also about how they might improve them;
- informs the planning of subsequent classes and activities; and
- comes from a variety of perspectives, including from students’ reflections, from peers, and from the teacher (Blythe 1997).
The goal of student assessment is not simply to measure student performance, but to improve it. The primary focus of a tactical games approach is to encourage students to become better games players (i.e., competent). Assessment helps you and your students establish ongoing feedback about solving a particular tactical problem and helps students demonstrate whether they have achieved particular goals or standards relative to game performance. These considerations are important to successfully using assessment in the everyday life of your classes.
Although we have shared why we believe assessment is vital to the teaching and learning process, we also recognize that there are practical considerations for making assessment work in your situation. Many teachers believe that there is too much paperwork and there is not enough time to make assessment part of gymnasium life. These factors should not keep you from providing your students with a complete learning experience, which includes assessment and accountability. The next section addresses the decisions you need to make about assessment and the various assessment strategies you can use.