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Setting the criteria for student learning

This is an excerpt from Assessment-Driven Instruction in Physical Education eBook by Jacalyn Lea Lund & Mary Lou Veal.

Setting the Criteria for Student Learning

As you begin the process of planning and writing assessments, you may ask yourself many questions:

  • What level of competence is needed for reaching this unit goal? How good is good enough?
  • What do my students already know? Where will I start?
  • How do I narrow the content and teach for competence in the time allocated?
  • How can I get students to see the big picture of what I want to teach?
  • What knowledge and skills are critical for my students to learn?


These questions will be answered as you identify topics for the unit and determine the criteria used to establish the desired level of competence.


Setting the level of competence is often difficult for a beginning teacher. A general rule of thumb is that students should have enough competence so that they can perform a skill fairly automatically in the applied setting (i.e., an open environment such as gameplay, not when the skill is put in a closed environment, as for a skill test) and that they are able to transition from one skill or movement to another with little or no hesitation. The level of competence will be further defined when the rubric for the culminating assessment is fully developed. When using skill-test assessments, you must determine the level of competence for discrete skills. Chapter 6 contains a discussion about knowing where to set the bar for psychomotor assessments.


Some teachers think that the criteria of an assessment should be determined after the skill is assessed. Others feel that if you take a mastery approach to teaching a unit, then the criteria must be set at a level where students have sufficient competence to be successful when participating in the sport or activity. Both ideas have support, and they are discussed further in chapter 6.


The decision about the time allocated to teach a unit rests in the nature of the game, sport, or activity. Some units are much simpler and require less time to deliver, while others are much more complex. At the very least, allocate sufficient time so that students can learn the activity or game well enough to enjoy participating. Several things will affect how much depth is required for teaching a unit. Recognizing that there is a minimal level of learning below which it is useless to even consider offering the unit, several other factors influence how high teachers can set the bar for learning. Some things to consider include resources, students’ ability and attitude, and teacher expertise. These ideas are summarized in the following table.

Learn more about Assessment-Driven Instruction in Physical Education.