University of Limerick
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The experiences of primary pre-service teachers enacting assessment for learning in physical education during school placement

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posted on 2022-12-21, 12:00 authored by Suzanne Macken
Assessment for learning (AfL) has been widely acknowledged in the literature as having significant gains for teaching and student learning if implemented effectively (Black & Wiliam, 1998). Yet despite such recognition of the effectiveness of using assessment strategies, embedding assessment within the teaching of physical education is considered ‘as one of the most troublesome topics’ (López-Pastor et al., 2013, p. 57). This study explored the experiences of primary pre-service teachers (PSTs) enacting assessment for learning (AfL) in physical education during school placement. In addition, the impact of mentoring, continuous upskilling opportunities, and the realities of school placement on PST enactment of AfL were examined. School placement components of initial teacher education programmes are integral to pre-service teacher development, however, PSTs’ ability to transfer theory into their school placement remains a challenge (Lorente-Catalán & Kirk, 2016). Ogan-Bekiroglu & Suzuk (2014) found that although PSTs identified key elements of assessment literacy in theory, they had difficulty in implementing this into practice. Through an extensive review of the literature, it is evident that no research on PSTs’ assessment literacy in teaching primary physical education has been conducted. While research on primary teacher assessment literacy revealed low levels of assessment literacy for primary teachers in the teaching of physical education (Dinan-Thompson & Penney, 2015), no further research on primary teachers’ or PSTs’ assessment literacy around physical education is evident. Using a longitudinal action research approach (Pettigrew, 1990; McNiff, 1998) the practitioner-researcher teacher educator engaged in participant observation with five primary PSTs. Data was generated using researcher field notes, primary PST reflective journals and individual primary PST interviews. Drawing on the views of Collins, Brown, & Newman (1989), a cognitive apprenticeship framework positioned with the social constructivist paradigm was adopted as the theoretical framework. Findings indicate that PSTs were functioning at a low level of assessment literacy in enactment of assessment for learning in phase one following the completion of a primary physical education module as part of their teacher education programme. The use of a cognitive apprenticeship framework proved effective in raising PST assessment literacy, coupled with regular exposure to teaching primary physical education on school placement. The realities of school placement, such as, the outsourcing of physical education lessons, multi-use of facilities, and behaviour management impacted on PST enactment of AfL. The impact of teacher educator modelling with primary school students proved more effective than the integrated approach to AfL in the physical education module, preparing the PSTs for the complexities of implementing self and peer assessment to a greater extent than when practiced with peers. The need for explicit opportunities for PSTs to practice implementing AfL in their teaching of primary physical education, through modelled practice, is essential in ITE programmes.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

MacPhail, Ann

Second supervisor

Calderón, Antonio





Department or School

  • Physical Education and Sports Science

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