Discussing assessment reliability in Physical education

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The aim of this essay is to discuss assessment reliability in relation to Physical education. Key areas of formative and summative assessment will be addressed using key theories and experiences in placement one. This is an exciting period within teaching with the new curriculum for excellence being introduced to schools throughout Scotland. The present standard grade and intermediate system will be replaced; this will also be addressed within this essay.


Scotland's formative and summative assessments has evolved over many years, from the introduction of O levels to the new curriculum for excellence that is being implemented throughout Scotland's primary schools and secondary school this year................

Formative assessment is undertaking by the teacher interpreting what a pupil says or does through observation. This observation will assist the teacher in developing the next steps for the pupil to take in order to advance through the subject. In Physical education this formative assessment can be through observing a pupil performing different skills and techniques in a variety of sports, and asking question to the pupil and assessing their answers. This form of assessment can also be used in classroom periods through question and answer sessions. There is clear evidence that assessment for learning is effective in pupil learning (www.gtce.org.uk). Assessment is for learning is usually an informal strategy which is embedded in teaching and can occur many times during a lesson. Assessment is for learning is a the forefront of the curriculum for excellence and leading experts believe that it has positive effects of learners development (inside black box). There are many different strategies within assessment is for learning such as effective questioning, (high and low order), effective discussions and feedback that allows pupils to move forward. This is only three strategies that can be used by a teacher to assess pupil formatively.

The LTScotland website states about the four big ideas of assessment is for learning

That learner will learn more effectively when they understand clearly what they are trying to learn and the expectation of them

Learners are given feedback about the quality of their work and what they can do to make it better

They are given advice about how to go about making improvements

They are fully involved in deciding what needs to be done next and who can give them help if needed

The second type of assessment that a teacher will use is summative. Summative assessment usually comes at the end of a period of learning while formative is carried on throughout the learning process. Assessing knowledge and understanding at a specific time the summative assessment will allow for teachers and pupils to recognise the pupils knowledge at that time, while the formative assessment is designed to allow for aims to increase pupil's awareness of the subject. The system in which summative assessment is used is static and is usually carried out with predetermined questions, however formative assessment is dynamic and can be used to give feedback to the pupil and teacher. Summative assessment usually takes the form of a formal examination. Formal examination are where the students are aware of the assignment that they are undertaking is for assessment purpose (Mcalpine, 2002). Summative assessment is defined by Brookes et al (2004) as an assessment that provides a systematic summing up of attainment through, for example, an end of topic or piece of homework. Summative assessment is often regarded as high stake assessment, this means that pupils know that the high importance of good results will have an effect of their life, such as university places. Summative assessments of this type are usually set by the Scottish qualification Authority at the end of the year. Results from these assessments are graded and this allows pupils and parents to see what the learner has achieved at the end of the year. Despite criticism from experts about summative assessment they are still used in the educational system today, some experts believe that teachers should veer away from graded assessment to a more formative assessment method.

The purpose of assessments is to allow for learners to highlight weaknesses and strengths so that they can acquire the educational support that is needed to progress (reform group). Assessments help understand and pinpoint the area that both teachers and pupils will need to work on to develop curricular areas further. It is important that before assessment is taking place that planning is done to ensure that the assessment will fulfil the demands of the course (Mcalpine, 2002). It is apparent that there is some debate between formative and summative assessment, with some experts encouraging teachers to use everyday formative techniques to grade pupils instead of the traditional summative grading at the end of learning modules. There is an argument for and against both techniques as both have strengths and weaknesses. Formative assessment allows teachers and pupils to identify strengths and weaknesses earlier and thus allows for the pupil to work on weaknesses quicker so that time spent studying in and out of the class can be more effective. However as it is still compulsory within the Scottish educational system for pupils to undertake an external exam it could be argued that it would be a massive disadvantage to pupil not to allow them to receive summative assessment grades, to allow for preparation for future examinations. The summative assessment grades also allows for teachers to provide evidence of learning and progression to external bodies, summative assessment allows for this evidence to be recorded for this purpose.

Reliability and Validity

Reliability and validity are at the middle of every assessment made by teachers. Although reliability and validity are different they come hand to hand when in the context of assessment. Reliability is essentially how much the assessment made by the authorities can be trusted to give consistent data on the pupil's progression. For physical education exam that is to be written in French would not be a valid assessment of Physical education as the exam could be assessing pupils ability in French (Mcalpine,2002). The two main types of reliability are test related and parallel forms. Test related reliability is when there can be correlations between different attempts of similar assessments by one student. If there was little test related reliability then one pupils results may have a significant different result. Parallel forms reliability is when identical assessments between candidates are compared. If this type of reliability lacked then it may be that tests are testing different outcomes, which could be deemed a disadvantage to pupils.

There are quite a few types of validity to ensure that the assessment is actually test on what needs to be tested. Curricular validity, construct validity and predictive validity. Curricular validity would ensure that the assessment is kept within the curriculum and what students need to know. Without this then quality of the assessment would be questioned. Construct validity is how closely the assessment relates to the domain that is to be assessed (Mcalpine,2002). For example in physical education, if an exam required high level of information technology to test pupils on performance evaluation then this may be inappropriate as pupils may not be computer literate. Ensuring construct validity means that the assessment is related closely to the learning objectives of the subject. The third validity is predictive. This allows the teacher to predict assessment results for a pupil. This is important so that the pupils assessment performance is closely related to future results. A pupil that has got a 1 in standard grade physical education should receive a good result in higher.

Validity in testing is whether or not the test will highlight the important parts in which a teacher and pupil needs to know. The test must ensure that the assessment is specific to the learning outcomes and can be used to help development of the pupils learning. The teacher's assessment being used to develop the pupil's performance has been well used. It can be argued that a teacher's evaluative assessment can be superior to any external assessment by the school. Teacher's ongoing assessment (formative) can argue that this enhances reliability because the teacher has more evidence than an external exam. The formative assessment technique also enhances validity as the teacher can provide a wider collection of evidence. Reliability and validity together contribute to the dependability of the assessments, which is the confidence in which pupils and teacher have towards the assessments. According to Mcalpine, 2002 formal assessments are perceived to be fairer as an exam has less room for bias. Students are aware that they are being assessed and work accordingly for the situation, however pupils can be stressed and may perform worse and a result of this stress. Informal assessments may help to reduce stress and give a more valid outlook of a student's capability.

With validity and reliability in mind as a teacher then there is various techniques used by teachers to ensure that both are implemented in teaching.

Motivation and Learning

Motivation for learning is a hot topic in teaching, it is at the centre of every pupil and how assessments will be positive or sometimes negative on the motivation of a pupil to learn. The assessment reform group have summarised studies that would help understand how assessments affect motivation. There were studies that found negative impacts on pupil's motivation through assessment. The studies did not take in to consideration every attribute that can be affected but did however highlight that self esteem was impacted upon when dealing with motivation. This is shown in a study by Davies & Brember (1999) who measured reading and mathematics attainment and self esteem. The findings were that self esteem was lower in lower achieving pupils. When summative assessments are what the pupils are judged on then pupils with subjects that are not deemed to be their strengths will judge themselves poorly (Evans and Engelberg 1988). These findings show that pupils are well aware that the results of summative assessment is very important in there learning. This causes pupils to be anxious and stressed when sitting exams which may result in a negative grade. According to Gordon and Reese (1997) the 'low achievers' become overwhelmed and de-motivated by re occurring assessment as this only give more evidence of their low achievement. Teachers have become very effective in training pupils to achieve a pass in tests even though there knowledge and understanding does not merit the pass mark they have been given (Gordon and Reese, 1997). This type of teaching is not just to help the pupils but also to improve the school or teachers reputation. Teaching in this way is done by transferring of knowledge, which some pupils react well to, however pupils that gain knowledge through active learning are at a disadvantage as they do not pick up the information through reading and dictation from a teacher. This will once again have a direct effect of a pupil's motivation for learning.