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Assessing and validating physical performance: valuing teacher judgment and 'real' learning contexts - the use of video

Jeff Thompson and David Johnston
Jeff Thompson is Key Learning Area Officer: Health and Physical Education, Queensland Studies Authority. David Johnston is Standards and Assessment Officer: Health and Physical Education, Queensland Studies Authority

Student assessment needs to be situated in the local realities of schools, classrooms, teachers, and students. This belief, supported by a range of experts (Garcia & Pearson 1994, Johnston 1992, Estrin 1993), is also acknowledged in Queensland's school-based assessment system.

In Queensland's Senior Physical Education (PE) subject, video evidence of students' physical performance is used to support teachers' assessment decisions.

Rather than being a means of assessment in itself, the video evidence for physical responses is used to justify the decisions that have already been made regarding physical response standards. There is no other mechanism that can convey and contextualise physical response, and validate teacher judgement, as well as video. Well-designed video evidence provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know and can do in physical performance contexts. The video evidence is succinct, and encourages teachers to provide only relevant information to support their decisions.

Videos as a support for teachers' judgements

Physical activity is the context in which subject specific knowledge of PE, such as skill acquisition theory, psychology, exercise physiology and sociology are delivered. Timed skill tests and batteries of other objective techniques do not convey the assessment reality of this form of student learning. Video evidence, on the other hand, allows teachers to highlight their understandings of the intentions of the syllabus, show students in contexts that are 'real', and present the physical context of the activities under scrutiny. Most importantly, though, teachers are able to demonstrate why they have made their judgements.

The video evidence is not focussed on an individual student, unless the physical activity suits this eg. gymnastics performance. Videos focus on standards and not individuals. The video is of the cohort under scrutiny, adding to the total picture of that cohort.

Video evidence is meant to be a snapshot of the teacher decisions that can be used to help validate and support other physical response decisions. This allows the teacher the freedom to choose the physical activity that is most appropriate to the technological and logistical expectations of the video process. Teachers also have the freedom to choose the physical activities with which they are more comfortable or skilled, or where the nature of the cohort allows easy demonstration of the standards.

The video is planned and may have rehearsed circumstances (drills, set team plays and practised strategies) included. However, to demonstrate the full range of subject knowledge, complex performance environments are needed. A complex performance environment is one where students are required to make decisions according to changing or new circumstances. It is a 'real-life' performance environment, and may include competitive circumstances. In these contexts, students are able to demonstrate higher order process skills, such as problem solving and decision-making, and are expected to apply knowledge, tactics and strategies where outcomes cannot always be predicted. (Physical Education Senior Syllabus)

Grehaigne (2003) and Tallir et al. (2003) suggest video be used for each student in a detailed analysis of a point-in-time performance, as is done with elite athletes. However, while these video assessment instruments, with their complex coding and statistical data collection, may have high reliability in manufacturing a result, the resources and time needed to compile detailed and highly analytical videos would impose an unnecessary burden on the classroom teacher, and undermine the professionalism of teacher judgement, which is a central tenet in the Queensland system. The goal of the subject is to produce students who are intelligent performers, not elite athletes. Video evidence linked to criteria and standards, and used to support judgements in the school context, is a manageable mechanism for teachers to use.

Videos and the moderation process

The use of video in PE also plays a role in the process of moderation of student results, as compiled video evidence is submitted by teachers for peer review at moderation meetings.

Video evidence and supporting documentation have made it possible to allocate half of the exit decisions for the subject to student physical performances. Results for PE appear on the senior certificate and are used in calculations for tertiary entrance.

During the process of moderation, student performance is considered against physical performance standards detailed in the PE syllabus (Physical Education Senior Syllabus). Across Queensland, schools use these standards to develop criteria sheets specific to the physical activities undertaken at their school [see appendix 2].

Once again, the video evidence used during moderation is not the actual assessment of students' physical responses. Physical response assessment is ongoing and continuous throughout the unit of work, and is finalised at the end of the unit.

The video evidence of physical response standards is supported by further explanation in the form of a voice-over/commentary, enabling teachers to articulate extra information about the judgments they have made. Accompanying this are the physical response criteria sheet and the class/cohort profile sheet. Developing a performance specific criteria sheet allows teachers to judge student performances, and helps ensure comparability of standards.

Video evidence also has other uses. It allows the performance to be viewed by the students themselves, and encourages them to self-assess and learn to improve. It also helps educators 'gain a deeper understanding of student learning, [enabling] them to communicate evidence of that learning to parents, employers, and the community at large' (Higuchi 1992).

Guidance about the compilation of video evidence is provided in the syllabus and is supported through professional development offered by the Queensland Studies Authority.


Video evidence is used in Queensland Physical Education classes to support student learning and assessment. It is a crucial tool for validating teacher decisions, and has promoted the value of assessing physical performance in 'real' contexts. Furthermore, it has positive implications as a pedagogical tool for student reflection and motivation. The use of video has made possible the moderation of student physical performances. In turn, student physical performances are valued, and are able to form a substantial part of assessment data used for certification.

Appendix 1. Queensland Studies Authority (2004) Physical Education Senior Syllabus.

Appendix 2. Physical Performance Criteria Sheet: Touch. Lockyer District State High School, Queensland.


Estrin, E. T. (1993) Alternative assessment: Issues in language, culture, and equity. (Knowledge Brief No. 11) San Francisco, CA: WestEd.

Furger, R. (2002) Assessment for understanding, eduTopia online, The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Garcia, G. E. & Pearson, P. D. (1994) 'Assessment and Diversity'. Review of Research in Education, 20, 337 - 392.

Grehaigne, J (2003) Didactics of team sports: Tactical-decision learning model. A paper presented at the Second International Conference: Teaching Sport and Physical Education for understanding. Melbourne, Australia11-14 December 2003.

Higuchi, C. (1991) in Schools That Work: The Research Advantage. Part IV: Alternatives for Measuring Performance North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, PBS Elementary/Secondary Service, in partnership with the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (UCLA/CRESST) (1991). Oak Brook, IL: Authors.

Johnston, P. H. (1992) Constructive review of literate activity. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Newmann, F. M., Marks, H. & Gamoran, A. (1995). 'Authentic Pedagogy and Student Performance'. American Journal of Education, 104 (4), 280 - 312.

Tallir, I. Musch, E. Lannoo, K. and Van de Voorde, J. (2003) Validation of a video based coding instrument for the assessment of invasion games competence as a player in handball and soccer. A paper presented at the Second International Conference: Teaching Sport and Physical Education for understanding. Melbourne, Australia11-14 December 2003.

Weatherby, R. (2003) Physical Performance Criteria Sheet: Touch. Lockyer District State High School, Queensland.

Key Learning Areas

Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

Physical education
Video recordings in education