Developing an Assessment Framework


Word Of Caution: This is a LOOOOONG post so better go get a coffee/water, maybe a snack and possibly have a bathroom break before we start.

Assessment, everyones favorite topic! If you want to get a heated conversation going in your staff meetings or department, just say this magic word and watch the show. It is the one things that everyone wants to do correctly, but it terrifies everyone. Assessment is such an important part of the education process and when used correctly it can help guide instruction planning and ultimately learning in your program.

Let’s be honest, when you start thinking about assessment you kind of start to get this image in your mind…


Yes, we all make that face when we start thinking of assessment framework

Assessment isn’t scary and it shouldn’t be seen as explaining quantum mechanics. Quality assessment follows the 5 C’s (yep, I added one of my own terms!):

-students, parents and teachers should know how they are assessed and the methods behind it
-assessment expectations should be clearly understood and identifiable
-should be easily identifiable and evident in your practice

-should be used to encourage student learning rather than a final judgement
-should be part of instruction done in a variety of contexts, using varied methods and instruments that match the specific outcomes
-should be part of an ongoing process rather than a set of isolated events, often at the end of a unit or term

-should address the curricular outcomes and include a variety of strategies that meet the diverse learning needs of students
-should be developmentally appropriate; e.g., age and gender appropriate, and consider cultural needs and students’ special needs
-should be constructive, focusing on student strengths, and encourage further learning by creating positive atmospheres and positive self-images

-should engage students so they will become more responsible for their own learning and develop a positive attitude toward leading an active and healthy lifestyle
-should help to make students feel competent and successful related to their own physical abilities and encourage them to set goals for further improvements
-should involve parents, and possibly the community, to different degrees and at different times.

-based on the general and specific outcomes/standards of the curriculum
-identify the critical aspects of performance that describe, in specific terms, what is involved in demonstrating student learning
-should include students in identifying and/or creating the criteria
-should be communicated to students so that they know what the target is in relation to grade-specific outcomes
-should ensure communication, prior to and throughout instruction, to both parents and –students about the criteria the teacher is looking for that are important at that particular time.

So now the big question is how can we apply these qualities into realistic assessment in your Physical Education program? It is actually much easier than you think (especially if you are using standards/outcomes like the ones from SHAPE America). To start this process you first need to create an assessment framework that will help guide, organize and communicate your assessment practice.

Step One: Find your ROCKS, PEBBLES and SAND


Yes, even your assessment framework can look as nice as the jar one right when everything is put in the right order!

If you are using standards/outcomes you will notice one thing from the very beginning, THERE ARE A LOT. That might be why you start to get the image of numbers and symbols everywhere and a very confused look (see earlier meme for reference). To help make things CLEAR and COMPREHENSIVE you need to start by organizing your standards/outcomes into ROCKS, PEBBLES and SAND.

ROCKS are your central ideas and concepts essential to your program. These are the concepts that support the WHY behind physical education and physical literacy, WHY it is valuable and WHY you will use these skills throughout your physical literacy journey. These rocks provide a strong foundation for future assessment tools, communication of learning to parents and a solid foundation for assessment OF/FOR/AS learning.

An example of what ROCKS in your assessment framework can look like could be based of the core concepts of physical literacy. Connecting the general outcomes/standards of your curriculum can be pretty simple, just connect the concepts that best match the requirements behind the standards and outcomes. Not only do you create a foundation of your assessment framework, but you have already started creating student friendly language that will help them understand assessment in your PE program.


Just taking a boulder and making it into smaller rocks…

PEBBLES are pieces of your ROCKS made into smaller, specific pieces to help make assessment COLLABORATIVE and COMPREHENSIVE. Telling students that they are being assessed on their movement competencies is one thing, but further breaking that down to specific concepts further helps communicate to the students WHAT it looks like and WHAT is involved. Creating smaller pieces of a rock definitely makes it more manageable and easy to integrate into your assessment tools and an easily fit into your framework when they have been changed into student friendly language.

I have always found that when I have my concepts clearly organized and set in front of me, it always answers the question of WHY am I assessing and WHAT is being assessed. When I can easily answer that question, so can the students and they now know what qualities are being assessed and can provide feedback for future learning and a potential reflection.


Rocks are much easier to manage when broken down into smaller pebbles

SAND is connecting the specific standards/outcomes to the concepts that build the foundation and supports of your assessment framework. This piece helps make your assessment framework CRITERIA BASED and guides assessment FOR/OF/AS learning in your your classroom.

Just like when you play with sand, it can get a bit messy. Connecting all the specific standards/outcomes to your concepts will take some time but is totally work it in the long run. Connecting the specific standards not only help you create criteria based assessments, it will help you in creating the specific assessment tools that you will use in class.


When I am doing this, I pretend that its like Apples to Apples, or Cards Against Humanity. Just need to find the right match for my audience.

So, now you have gone through and taken your huge boulder of standards and outcomes, broken it down into rocks, made those rocks smaller and more manageable and filled the gaps with your sand, you could potentially have a product that looks like this. This assessment framework not only helps you turn assessing all this criteria into manageable pieces, but it easily communicates to students and parents WHAT is being assessed and HOW to guide their learning journey.


Proof that an assessment framework CAN BE REAL

Ummm, you missed something…

Who caught something that I didn’t cover? There is something that I left out on purpose (not like that time I was building that swing set, that was an accident).

What about CONTINUOUS…

Now that we have an assessment framework designed and can be used to easily communicate to students, staff and parents. The assessment journey doesn’t stop there. From your framework you can now design specific assessment tools that are CRITERIA BASED, COLLABORATIVE, COMPREHENSIVE and CLEAR, for assessment to be CONTINUOUS it needs to be integrated into your planning process.But that is another post for another day…


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