Teaching: It's ALL About Outcomes
schools in the country have been unaffected by the NCLB legislation.
For many physical education programs the emphasis on academic test
scores in "core" areas has meant a further reduction in
program time, and administrative and policy support. In most cases,
it is not that administrators do not "value" physical
education as an integral part of a well rounded program for children.
In the present educational environment they are forced to accept
the idea that what isn't tested does not "count."
Many of our colleagues have called for physical education to be
part of the "core" subjects so that we may be included
in NCLB. The result of being included would mean that we would need
to identify outcomes, be able to assess those outcomes, and be willing
to hold ourselves accountable for those outcomes. Not only are all
of these factors a part of NCLB, they are a part of mainstream education.
For the most part as a profession, we are not ready or willing to
do any of these things.
Let's begin with the notion of identifying
outcomes for which we are willing to hold ourselves accountable.
The first national standards were published in 1995 and revised
in 2004. Since then few programs have actually used the standards
to develop curriculums that define how those standards are going
to be achieved. Instead of actually exploring what students need
to know, and be able to do, to achieve the standards at particular
grade levels and in particular settings, the standards have been
primarily used to defend what we already do.
"I give Fitnessgram
- that falls into standard 4." "I teach basketball - that
falls into standard 1." "My kids love coming to PE - that
falls into standard 3."
We are not designing programs to meet
the standards, but rather we are fitting our programs into the standards.
Such an approach avoids the issue of making real decisions about
outcomes that need to be achieved for students to actually have
the skills or knowledge to meet a standard, much less the issue
of whether we are willing to hold ourselves accountable for whether
or not students achieve those outcomes.
South Carolina is one of the few states that have made the decision
to not only define minimum outcomes that students should achieve
at particular grade levels, but also assess those outcomes and hold
teachers and schools responsible for meeting those outcomes. Most
teachers are supportive of the assessment program in spite of its
limitations because they have recognized that their programs and
their teaching have improved as a result of the program, and students
are benefiting from those changes. That's what teaching for outcomes,
and having some kind of accountability for outcomes can do.
What is interesting is the rationale of those who are not supportive.
When you eliminate the issues related to "its more work"
from teachers not willing to put in the effort, a primary concern
of teachers is related to the idea that they are unwilling to define
what students should be learning in their classes, and even more
unwilling to be held accountable for whether or not students learn
The surprise for those of us who have worked with the assessment
program is that the resistance to outcomes has been particularly
strong at the elementary school level. Like many professionals,
we have assumed that some of our strongest teaching is going on
at the elementary level. When asked what should replace the assessment
program, elementary teachers do not talk about different outcomes
but rather "Come watch me teach - my students love PE"
or "I'm a good teacher - measure that." The discussion
Teaching that does not result in students learning is like a successful
operation where the patient dies.
In spite of the fact that we now have mounting evidence that the
skills, knowledge, and values students actually acquire as children
and adolescents directly affects their level of physical activity
as adults, what students learn, and whether or not students learn
has not been important to the practice of our profession.
When pressed, some would argue that they want students to like
physical activity and that's the reason they don't teach for learning.
This argument makes a very false assumption that learning and achievement
is not an enjoyable experience, and ignores the idea that a level
of competence is necessary to successfully participate.
A second major problem related to our readiness to become part
of the education mainstream is the attitude many physical education
teachers take toward assessment. While both formative and summative
assessment is being placed as an integral partner of the instructional
process in the rest of education, many physical education teachers
still see assessment as a loss of instructional time. It is a part
from, rather than a part of, effective instruction.
These arguments usually manifest themselves, as I know what my
students can do in spite of the fact that it is not until teachers
assess more formally than eyeballing what students in their classes
are doing, that they really can know what students can
do. Classroom teachers spend as much as 25-30 percent of their time
in assessment. Many of our programs spend no time. Assessment is
not a loss of instructional time, it is time spent that facilitates
Part of the problem physical educators have with assessment is
that assessment makes no sense unless you have clear outcomes for
what you want students to learn. Until physical educators are willing
to define outcomes they want their programs to achieve, assessment
will be seen as time wasted. The role of assessment in schools is
not likely to go away. If anything it will be increased. Recent
revisions in NCLB thinking will most likely add more formal formative
and interim assessment to the instructional process so that teachers
can use that information to help students meet desired objectives.
NCLB will continue to impact physical education programs as an
"unintended consequence." I am not sure that physical
education wants to be or needs to be part of the NCLB initiative.
What I am more sure of is that physical education needs to begin
to define minimally what we expect every student to learn in our
classes, and that we need to measure the extent to which students
have learned, and hold ourselves accountable for that learning,
if we are to be considered a viable program area in the school curriculum.
The standards, assessment and accountability reform movement can
improve physical education programs and teaching. We can no longer
continue to say we do all these wonderful things for children without
defining what that might be, measuring the extent to which we do
it, and holding ourselves accountable for doing it.
University of South Carolina
(Dr. Judith Rink recently served on the NASPE Board of Directors,
and is currently leading the development of the South Carolina Assessment
Program. She is also this month's featured pelinks4u video
pelinks4u readers are encouraged to reflect on the points
made in this editorial and to share your thoughts in the NASPE