Can they or can’t they? – Using the Benchmarks in PE

It’s been a while since I last posted and in that time there have been a lot of developments in PE and in Education as a whole. I have spoken in the past of how I am using the Significant Aspects of Learning (SAL) within my practice. I have done work around using pupil voice to exemplify the SALs and have had excellent conversations with young people using the SAL Progression Framework.

Moving on from this Education Scotland have recently published draft Benchmarks for PE (I think other subject areas are coming out as we speak!). The Benchmarks are starting to be discussed in departments and are in my opinion a good tool that we can use to move forward. For over a decade we have worked with the Experiences & Outcomes and many colleagues have used them to develop good courses with sound planning. The PE Experiences & Outcomes are a good source to help plan a lesson, I will discuss this in detail in a future post.

After this came the Significant Aspects of Learning and ‘what you need to be good at in physical education’.    This is an interpretation of the SAL developed by many colleagues. I use the SALs every day in my teaching practice.   I plan lessons around them, discuss them with learners, get learners discussing with one another, self-evaluation & assessment with and of learners.   It has been an exciting development in PE and many colleagues are taking them further and adapting them to suit their learners.  You just need to spend a bit of time on twitter to see just how well colleagues have embraced the Significant Aspects of Learning.

Always on the agenda in recent years has been the issue of tracking, monitoring and assessment. How do we effectively assess our learners using the Significant Aspects of Learning?  Many departments have created their own way of assessing learners and using appropriate learner conversations.  All of which is great but in the past few weeks I have been looking at ways I can use the Benchmarks for this.   After attending the SATPE Conference and hearing from Suzanne Hargreaves and also having excellent discussions with colleagues I am becoming more confident in using the Benchmarks to assess my learners.   They are well written and thanks to our outstanding PE Lead Officers made into a simple easy to use document.   A great tip is if I say a learner’s name followed by a benchmark statement for example if I use myself and Third Level Decision Making it will read like this:

Darren Leslie – Takes responsibility for decisions under pressure that leads to improved performance.

As a teaching professional I can make a ‘can he or can’t he?’ judgement.    I can also consider can he do this consistently, in familiar and unfamiliar contexts?  Through my observations,  I come to a judgement based on what I know of my learner,  and,  the evidence from their performance across a range of activities over the session .

I can do this for a few learners to get a snapshot of where my learners are and help plan my next series of lessons to best meet their needs. I can then hold meaningful learner conversation and identify clear next steps with learners.  I also think the benchmarks will be an effective  moderation tool for departments to  be make more consistent and robust  judgements on their learners and agree standards. For example,  I could take two classes out and hold a hockey tournament.   As the learners play,  a colleague and I could pick out 3 or 4 learners and use the benchmarks to confirm aspects where they are working within a level,  and aspects where they are achieving a level.   This generates evidence and builds a picture over the school year on the progress they are making.

There is still a lot of work to be done to provide a progressive 12 year journey for learners from nursery to S3 to prepare them well for Senior Phase.  It is hoped that they can then move onto an appropriate suite of  National Qualifications/Awards.   I am becoming more confident in using Benchmarks and understanding how Experiences & Outcomes, Significant Aspects of Learning, Benchmarks and appropriate pedagogy such as Better Movers and Thinkers all fit together but I am still learning all the time and happy to discuss these topics further.

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