7 Approaches to Physical Education Grading

by SPARK


teacher grading his students work

Gone are the days of rope climbing, forced laps, and now dodgeball. Today, physical education is being used as a tool for students to understand, enjoy, improve, and maintain their fitness and well-being.

But, with such subjective goals, grading can pose a major issue. A lot of educators just don’t like grading; however, some are finding ways to use grades to teach students, rather than label them. The results ensure more flexibility and personalization, which in turn encourages growth and a more comprehensive view of physical education.

Here are 7 approaches to physical education grading that might help you at the end of next semester:

1. Make a Mission Statement

Just like any other goal, to achieve it, you have to set it.

Your department’s mission statement will become the backbone of your program, lessons and grading. It should cover what you do and why you do it. By creating a mission statement that is clear and concise, you have something tangible to share with your students to help them frame the work they’re doing – and the grades they’re receiving.

2. Communicate Objectives

Explaining grades to parents can be a nightmare. How do you provide the evidence behind the grading if there is none?

Try and break down the objectives of your lessons for students and parents, so they can see what exactly is being graded. After all, it’s not just “volleyball,” it’s “teamwork, coordination, strength, speed, and improvement over time.” If this is made clear, they’ll understand that’s what they’re being graded on and not just winning the match.

3. “Unpack” Your Goals

Work with students to “unpack” the curriculum.

Unpacking means taking each outcome and breaking it into smaller, more measurable objectives. Like the example above, “volleyball” can be broken down into several sub-skills, but those can be broken down even further. Coordination, for example, could cover things like proper posture, correct form, accurate hits, etc. Write these out and communicate them to your students for better results.

4. Modify Expectations

Everybody and every body is different, and physical education classes can emphasize this in ways that could embarrass or disadvantage many students.

It’s helpful to modify classes to accommodate students who are overweight, living with a physical disability, or simply uncomfortable with certain exercises. Create an and inclusive environment by adapting lessons and activities, it can improve participation and morale and lead to better overall outcomes.

5. Give Second Chances

If a student tests poorly the first time, try giving them a second chance. This lets you stick to the curriculum and apply the same expectations, but allows the student to learn from their mistakes and ultimately improve their grade.

Using a “request to retest form” puts the students in control of their performance and asks them to consider how they’ll improve before moving forward.

5. Mark for Improvement

Chances are there will be a huge gap between your most athletic students and your least athletic students.

Recognizing not just skill, but improvement over the course of the term, can illustrate more clearly how that student is doing. Whether you use National Standards or your state has its own standards, you’ll already be marking for both progress towards and the achievement of those standards. Now just make sure you’re weighting those two fairly.

6. Reflect

At the end of the day, grades are a part of teaching. They should inform students and their parents about how they are doing and help them move forward.

Grades alone can’t do that, but reflection on that grade can. Engage students in self-assessments following graded exercises like tests or exams, asking questions like, “How did you prepare? Were some parts easier than others? How do you think you could have improved?” This can help them plan for future tests to improve their grades.

You can’t escape the grading system no matter how much you dislike it, but you can make it work to your advantage. By communicating clearly with students and their parents, breaking down objectives, and taking a comprehensive approach to their physical education, you can make grades less of a label and more of a motivation.

Contact SPARK now to speak to our knowledgeable staff about more innovative ideas and expert advice for your PE lessons.

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