Aligning Curriculum to Best Practices

Hello everyone! Apologies for the lack of recent posts, but things have been a tad busy in my world of physical and health education. Enough of my excuses, let’s get right into the topic of this post: using the curriculum to guide best practices in physical education.

Before we get any further, let’s define the curriculum. In this use, a curriculum is the standards that are set out by a governing body that guides the instruction of a specific course. These standards need to be addressed throughout the exploration of the course through planning, learning activities and used to report on student learning through assessment. For us here, this curriculum is the SHAPE National Physical Education Standards.


This year I have started off with the focus on creating meaningful experiences in physical education for students, teachers and our community. When I sat down and chewed on the standards this summer, this questions came to mind, “does connecting to a curriculum guarantee the development of a meaningful experience in physical education?”. Honestly, I do not believe that is the case. A solid curriculum gives us some guidance in planning the learning experience, but there needs to be something more. Planning to simply connect to a standard and executing that plan always seemed like checking off a box that was on an evaluation. It lacked creating a meaningful connection to students and their experiences in physical education. Don’t get me wrong, I think that SHAPE standards are great (they use the language of physical literacy and becoming physically literate), but in this case the cliche “it’s not you, it’s me” always seemed to push me to take a deeper look in making a more meaningful connection.

Maybe I was partially influenced by a great article that Dean Dudley put out back in 2015, A Conceptual Model of Observed Physical Literacywhere the idea that physical literacy development takes place within four developmental domains was introduced to me. Dudley describes these four developmental domains as 1. movement competencies, 2. rules, tactics, and strategies of movement, 3. motivation and behavioral skills of movement and 4. personal and social attributes of movement. Now when I think of student development and progressive learning, a student should be receiving instruction that is purposefully focused on progressing through these domains.

Maybe you disagree, and I would love to hear your thoughts in it, but this was a lightbulb moment. If the curriculum could be aligned to these domains of physical literacy development, would that be the right direction of creating a meaningful and personal experience for students in physical education?

So the challenge that I set out with the department was to align the curriculum standards to the domains of physical literacy development, connect that to quality instructional practices, planning, and assessment practices so that students meaningful engagement in physical education could be fostered every day. I’m pretty sure that is a doctoral thesis in some sense, but for this year that is the guiding principle for the development of our program.


To start off the process, we had to take Dudley’s concept of the four domains and make it teacher friendly. Keeping in mind not everyone reads the research, and that the majority of the teachers in the department were new hires to the school in various stages of their professional journey, I had to take this idea and make it practical to see in a classroom. Using the four domains, four criteria areas/domains were created:

1. VALUE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY (Affective / Behavioral Domain): Includes persistence, initiative and working independently in physical activity settings with a focus on the values, attitudes and behavioral skills to plan for and participate in lifelong physical activity.

2. MOVEMENT DEVELOPMENT (Physical Domain): Involves developing proficiency in object control, stability, and locomotor skills to sequence movement in a wide variety of physical activity settings. ABC’S of Athleticism: Agility, Balance, Coordination, Speed

3. CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING (Cognitive Domain): Includes understanding of physical activity contexts, rules, and tactics. This understanding is used to plan for tactical movement and demonstration of critical and creative thinking through movement.

4. COOPERATION / LEADERSHIP / SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT (Personal and Social Attributes): Includes safety, cooperation, communication and leadership within physical activity settings with a focus on inclusion of others and respectful participation in physical activity and other contexts.

These four criteria areas will serve various purposes as the ROCKS of our program development. I use the analogy rocks, pebbles and sand to help organize and structure the development of the big picture. There is a story that if you take a jar and put in the sand first (all the little things), you will not have room to put in the pebbles (critical concepts) and the rocks (the big ideas). You need to take a step back, identify your rocks first, take those big ideas and align them with critical concepts, and finally align that with all the specific standards that are in your curriculum. Then you can fit everything in nicely into your program development.


For the record, this is not my idea but someone else’s who took the time to figure out how to fit everything into your life. However, it does work great for planning quality physical education experiences!

With our rocks in place, we had to fill in some gaps with our PEBBLES, the critical values/beliefs that could be tied to instructional and assessment strategies. These pebbles are the day-to-day foundations of lesson focus and are the values that students will need to be physically active, physically literate and competitive for life (depending on the students desired pathway).

After some work, more research and reflection we were able to tie our four rocks to values that are tangible and real for students and their learning. We were able to come up with this…



UAS Physical Education Frame WorkLTADPhysical Literacy (3)

The values that we identified are ones that we feel are critical for the growth of students in physical education while addressing the needs of each student. No matter where a student is at in their physical literacy development journey, they can make a personal connection to the values in each domain. This may seem like a very vague connection, but when you use the values and adjust your daily practice to developing values and not just skills, be ready to watch the learning grow and with it the passion for education. Now that is where the SAND comes in, all the little things that tie and connect it all together.

For us, the sand is the SHAPE National Physical Education Standards and our daily practices that strive towards creating a quality physical education program. To make this a living part of our daily practice, we had to integrate the domains and their connected values into our assessment practices. This would involve connecting the specific shape standards to our values, create a student-friendly language so feedback can be clear and consistent, and structured in a manner so that it can be applied by all teachers across all divisions.

For our HS PE program, this is what our assessment criteria language ultimately looks like…

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.01.04 PM

I know, a bit tough to read. For the full google document, just click here…

Now, this is still a lot to take in. Showing this to teachers is great because it gives all of us a bank of values based assessment criteria that we can use to focus our unit planning, lesson objectives, and our assessment practices. During a unit of instruction, as a program, we will continue to focus on developing the value of physical activity and select one of the other domains that we can integrate into our students learning experience. This will help make a meaningful connection between the concept, teaching activities and eventually the student engagement. Trying to fit all four domains into a unit of instruction is simply too much and we want to focus on quality over quantity.

So what does this look like? Below you can see images to my Unit-At-A-Glance (which is linked to my unit plan) and student assessment rubric that shows the rocks, pebbles, and sand that is part of that unit of exploration. These are all the little things that help complete that large jar that I would like to consider a quality physical education experience.

Unit at a Glance_ NetWall Games Part 1

Here is the link to the full unit plan that was focused on volleyball instruction.

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 1.21.10 PM

Click here for the google docs link to this unit assessment rubric.



This process does not just start and end with quality planning and assessment strategies. As we have used this framework throughout the year we have found that there are many more applications.

Two of these applications have been identified as quality indicators for instruction and the development of alternative pathways throughout physical education programming. As a school, we are focused on providing a high quality of instruction and a lot of the tools we have been looking at and exploring are just not meeting our needs as a department. This is going to be the focus of our work throughout the year and I cannot wait to see it come together so that it can be shared!

Until then, and as always, I hope that the work that we are doing can be used by anyone who is willing to take a look at the norm and dare to change it. Enjoy everyone!

2 thoughts on “Aligning Curriculum to Best Practices

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – November 2018 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  2. Hi Jace,

    Excellent work here. One aspect that I continually question after 22 years of PHE teaching is in the area of motor skills. Specifically, if we are going to assess/evaluate the acquisition of motor skills, what are we gauging their progress on. I see the Net/Wall Movement Competency Roadmap for Expert, Apprentice etc., and I can see the inclusion of a differentiated descriptors, but my question always comes back to how to define “Demonstrated Competency.” Age, grade, developmental level, experience, other individual traits all exacerbate this question. How can I say student A has demonstrated competency and student B has not when both have worked/played their tails off, are leaders, contribute to class etc etc., but the final evaluation of their inquiry into Net Games skill are vastly different. They are clearly at different points in their skill acquisition. In addition, we know that people acquire motor skills in vastly different ways that look different etc, so I am always questioning my assessment/evaluation model because it seems that any “system” I lay down is imposed to some degree or another and therefore does not allow for the diversity of developmental paths.

    On the one hand if I move towards evaluating pure product, them we have a good old skills test. On the other hand if I look at more process oriented criteria it risks looking like a subjective assessment of progress (gulp!).

    Any thoughts here would be great! And thank-you for sharing your work!

    Rpb McMath
    Secondary PHE
    Courtenay, BC Canada


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