Assessment in Invasion Games: Part One – An Introduction

Nathan Horne

Team sports have traditionally made up a large part of any physical education program. Sports like basketball, football (soccer, American, Australian, Gaelic), handball, rugby and hockey are favourites in gymnasiums and on fields worldwide. All of these sports fall under the category of Invasion Games, where players try to maintain possession of an object, keeping it away from their opponents to move into a scoring position.

Students typically love playing these sports, or versions of them, and teachers find them easy to set up and run within their lessons. It is also generally easy to see who the “strongest” (scores all the points) and “weakest” (doesn’t touch the ball) players are within this context. The problem is that often this is as physical education teachers we constantly make observations about who the “strongest” players are and who is finding it difficult, but theses observations are more often that not just assumptions.

Flinders University Associate Professor, and my good friend, Shane Pill has suggested that  “assessment of games and sport in physical education has often not been authentic.” and that “assumptions should be authenticated with authentic evidence of student learning.”  Every time that we make an assumption that Student X is the “best player” so they must have the best tactical knowledge and understanding of the game we are reinforcing this inauthentic assessment.

In their book, Doherty & Brennan argue that physical education has traditionally been a relatively “data-poor” environment because of an absence of effective strategies to capture what learning has taken place. Brown & Hopper also suggest that as physical educators, too often we attempt to measure pyschomotor competence in games units through skill tests, and we create contexts that mitigate against student success no matter how much effort they exert. By using simple skill test reliant assessments & observation rubrics implemented at the end of a unit we are failing to authentically assess student performance.

The nature of Invasion Games, like basketball, football and hockey, is such that participants are engaged in a constantly changing environment, continually requiring planning and effective problem solving. How do you account for this constantly chaotic environment? How do you implement an assessment when every single time you observe it is going to look different?

I believe the key lies in looking for very specific indicators of success within a given game which will always be present, no matter how chaotic the game looks.

From Research to Practice: An assessment journey

This post is the first in a series of blog posts available at detailing how I aimed to use proven physical education research to change the way I assessed student learning in invasion games. In the six part series I explain in detail the research, assessment tools, learning activities and finally look at the data that I collected to help me get a more authentic picture of student learning during my invasion games unit.

At the upcoming APPEC Conference in Hong Kong, I will be presenting a workshop on Assessment in Invasion Games where I will be sharing the assessment tools and giving participants a chance to use them in action.