Alternative assessment in physical education : a review of international literature

López-Pastor, V.M. and Kirk, D. and Lorente-Catalán, E. and MacPhail, A. and Macdonald, D. (2013) Alternative assessment in physical education : a review of international literature. Sport, Education and Society, 18 (1). pp. 57-76. ISSN 1357-3322 (

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Assessment is one of the most fraught and troublesome issues physical educators have had to deal with over the past 40 years or so. In light of the challenges this situation presents, in this paper we provide an overview of the international literature on assessment in school physical education. We give an account of both traditional and alternative forms of assessment, focusing in particular on recent approaches that may be considered belong to the latter category of assessment. We found that traditional assessment instruments such as Physical Fitness Tests and subjective assessment criteria such as grading students' effort and clothing have been popular approaches to assessment. We also found alternative assessment approaches now in use that have a stronger educational focus. Thus, while we consider that this overview of research studies provides evidence of genuine progress in an area that has been fraught with difficulties for physical education as an educational endeavour, there is work to be done to disseminate what we understand to be good assessment practices. In closing, we briefly note some further challenges for research on assessment in physical education.