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Hensley, L. (1997). Alternative assessment for physical education. Journal of Physical Education Recreation and Dance, 68(7), 19-24.



Key Words: Assessment, Performance-based, Authentic, Real-life setting, Observational analysis, Rubrics, Well-defined criteria.

The article focused on the topic of authentic assessment, an area of extreme importance in physical education. With this said, a central question is how do we as physical educators implement authentic assessment in order to address national physical education standards? The article examined the reality of traditional testing (paper and pencil tests) and the need to document that students have reached the standards. Hensley noted that for authentic assessment to work two dimensions have to be present. First, assessments should be performance-based since it requires, “students to demonstrate specific skills and competencies rather than simply selecting one of the predetermined answers to a question” (p. 19). Second, assessments should be given in a real life situation. Paper and pencil tests are good for some cognitive pieces, but how are you as the teacher going to know if a student learned the skill if you do not know if he/she can perform the skill in a game situation? Game situations give students the stage to show their abilities, mentally and physically. These situations ensure that the students have learned the skills you intended. Skills testing alone does not ensure that the child can perform that skill in a game context.

Throughout the article, the importance of authentic assessment is emphasized. Hensley provides examples of rubrics that can be used, and advocates the importance of having well-defined criteria. For example, teachers that have a rubric that encompasses well-defined criteria can use authentic assessment to give students feedback on the skill, and also knowledge of strategy.

In conclusion, this article strongly advocates that assessment is an integral component of good teaching, not just a way for students to get a grade. Hensley encourages teachers to recognize that the traditional methods of assessment are still useful, but should not be the only way. Physical educators have a unique opportunity to help students understand and meet with all three domains of learning.

Implications for Teaching:

  • Teachers need to have well-defined criteria, such as; rubrics, and checklists,
  • Teachers cannot tell if students have learned if they do not put them in game like situations. Game like situations insure learning has occurred and the student can use the skill in real life not just as an individual skill.
  • Authentic assessment and traditional assessment should both be used as tools to show learning.
  • Assessment should be used as a tool for learning not just for a grade.
  • Assessment should be performance-based and be in life like situation, because performance-based assessment requires the student to demonstrate a skill not simply selecting a predetermined answer to a question.
  • Teachers need to teach their students skills that can be used outside of class to help them be life-long healthy people.
  • Teachers need to know the importance of quality testing, because it allows one to demonstrate accountability.

Related Readings

  1. Wiggens, G. (1991). Standards, not standardization: Evoking quality student work. Educational Leadership, 48(5), 18-25.
  2. Herman, J. L., Aschbacher, P. R., & Winters, L.W. (1992). A practical guide to alternative assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Submitted by Jason Miner who is an undergraduate preservice physical education teacher in the School of Sport & Exercise Science at the University of Northern Colorado. Thanks for contributing to PE Central! Posted on PEC: 3/9/05.