Assessment for Learning in Physical Education

Petter Erik Leirhaug's thesis "Karakteren i seg selv gir jo ikke noe læring" looks at the effects of the Assessment For Learning programme in physical education after "Kunnskapsløftet", an education reform introduced in 2006 in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education and training.

The Assessment For Learning programme (AFL) is a national measure set forth by the The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training in 2010. AFL is based on research findings that suggest it could be an effective learning tool. The purpose is to provide the students with more feedback and for the students to be involved in the assessment process through self-evaluation, allowing them to take a more active part in the learning process.
Six upper secondary schools took part in the study. The empirical evidence consists of a survey of the students and physical education teachers. At each school, they held focus group discussions with the teachers. The students answered a digital questionnaire on physical education and assessment. 1486 students and 23 physical education teachers participated in the study.
According to the findings in the study, AFL has not been fully implemented in physical education. Both teachers and students are unfamiliar with its principles. Most lacking is the implementation and usage of self-evaluation and student participation in the assessment process.

They are also faced with other challenges. Students who report to be familiar with AFL in physical education do not have higher grades than their peers, but it is expected they would.
"In theory, these findings are alarming," Leirhaug says. "Ideally, it should lead to higher grades." Leirhaug offers several explanations: "AFL is perceived differently by students who are given differing grades, implementation has been unsatisfactory and grading in physical education is a challenge in itself."

The effects of AFL are also dependent on the teachers' ability to make use of its principles. Leirhaug studied the assessment literacy of the physical education teachers. Even in cases where the teachers reported to be using AFL, their classes were characterized by traditional assessments methods. Many teachers work actively to implement AFL and want the students to be more involved in the assessment process. However, in physical education it is difficult to provide a framework for the students to carry out self-evaluation and critical thinking. Another challenge is being outside of the classroom when assessing the students. "Everyone identifies with their body. The 'body in motion' is the most important learning resource in physical education, and it makes assessment more personal," Leirhaug says. Their performance and achievements are more exposed which could cause the students to feel more vulnerable, making assessment in physical education more challenging for both teachers and students.

Leirhaug has examined the students' understanding and application of AFL in physical education. His findings suggest that it is still regarded as something new. It seems we are focusing on summative assessment, grading and the traditional assessment procedure.
"We are still far away from having implemented AFL to a degree where it provides better learning outcomes," says Leirhaug. As of now, implementation has focused on the aims of the course rather than motivating the students and getting them involved. The biggest challenge with AFL is the dialogue between the teacher and students. Leirhaug would like to see successful cases and detailed plans to support and improve the teachers' assessment literacy as a part of their professional development.


The four key principles of assessment for learning (AFL):
Students and apprentices are in a better position to learn if they:
1. Understand what they are learning and what is expected of them.

2. Receive feedback on the quality of their work and performance level.

3. Receive advice on how to improve.

4. Are more involved in their learning process through self-evaluation.