Teachers sometimes have difficulties expressing what they value when grading students in Physical Education and refer to a “gut-feeling” or internalised criteria (Annerstedt and Larsson, 2010; Hay and MacDonald, 2008). The internalised criteria consists of the teacher’s own values that have an impact on the grades regardless if they are consistent with the official grading criteria or not (cp. Penney et al., 2009). In this line research also suggests that teachers use a “hodge-podge grade of attitude, effort and achievement” (Brookhart, 1991: 36). Assessment and grading in Physical Education (PE) are no exceptions (Chan, Hay and Tinning, 2011; Redelius, Fagrell and Larsson, 2009; Svennberg, Meckbach and Redelius; 2014). In a criterion-referenced grading system the criteria need to be transparent to ensure validity and fairness. Otherwise the students do not know the reason for their grades and the grades are not possible to be discussed and evaluated. When the stated criteria are inconsistent with how the grading is done, it affects the learning-teaching process since the assessment is sending out a different message regarding what is important to learn (Chan, Hay and Tinning, 2011; Hay and Penney, 2012; James, Griffin and France, 2005; Redelius and Hay, 2009). In Sweden a criterion-referenced grading system was introduced in 1994, and grades are supposed to be awarded on the basis of how well the student meets the knowledge criteria or learning outcomes stated in the national curriculum. Conversely several studies carried out on Swedish PE indicate that how the student behaves is just as important as knowledge and skills (Annerstedt and Larsson, 2010; Redelius, Fagrell and Larsson, 2009).
The aim of this study is to explore what four Swedish PE teachers consider important when talking about grading and to analyse the relevance the expressed criteria have to the grades they have given their students. Such an exploration makes it possible to discuss how the verbalised criteria and the value they are given by the teacher can be understood in relation to the official grading criteria
Bernstein (2003: 85) points out the importance of the curriculum: ‘Curriculum defines what counts as valid knowledge, pedagogy defines what counts as valid transmission of knowledge, and evaluation defines what counts as a valid realisation of the knowledge on the part of the taught’. Linde (2012) discusses Bernstein’s thesis that curriculum defines what counts as valid knowledge and raises the question as to whether it is the written official curriculum that counts, or the mediated curriculum that results from the teachers’ transformations. He then points to the fact that the content and subject matters taught by teachers or learnt by students are not always the content expressed in the written official curriculum. The impact of the teachers’ transformation of the curriculum can also be applied on grading. How is it possible to understand the teachers’ transformation of the official grading criteria?
According to the Personal Construct Theory (PCT) by George Kelly (1955) our behaviour can be understood in the light of personally constructed patterns. These patterns of constructs help us to explain our experiences, to predict our surroundings and to choose a direction of our behaviour. The constructs are sometimes articulated, but they can also be unarticulated and experienced as a vague feeling. Constructs are sometimes described as the intuition, gut feeling or perception that guides our actions without necessarily being verbalised (Björklund, 2008).
For this study we used the Repertory Grid (RG) technique, which is based on PCT. It can enable people to verbalise what they intuitively feel (Björklund, 2008). The technique used in interviews is employed to map and find patterns in the individual constructs, the ones a person is both aware and unaware of, in a given area (Fransella, Bell and Bannister D, 2004). Four Swedish PE teachers who were about to grade a group of 15 year old students were interviewed using the RG technique. The interview with each teacher was performed in different steps (Fransella, Bell and Bannister D, 2004). In the first step the teachers were asked to select eight of their own students that represented the different grades (step one: generating elements). Thereafter they were asked to compare three students at the time and describe in what way two of them were similar and how they differed from the third concerning things that mattered for the grades. The similarities and differences made up the two poles of the constructs, for instance doesn’t care - takes responsibility (step two: generating constructs). To understand the meaning of the first pole, it is important to know the opposite pole (Fransella, Bell and Bannister, 2004). In the third step, the teachers were asked to rate the eight students on a five-point scale for every construct they had generated in the grid. On the scale, one represents the first pole in the construct, for instance doesn’t care, and five the opposite pole, takes responsibility. When all eight of the students were rated between one and five on every construct, the results composed a grid (step three: rating elements). In addition to the Repertory Grid interviews the teachers were asked to rate how important they considered their constructs to be on a five-grade scale, with five being the most important. To explore what the teachers valued in their grading, their constructs were summarised and categorised. Thereafter the data in the four grids were analysed with the software WEBGRID5. The resulting PrinGrid maps were analysed to investigate how well the constructs matched the grades given.
Data from the four teachers, concerning together 32 students, resulted in 86 constructs. The constructs were categorised in four themes: Motivation, Knowledge and skills, Confidence and Interaction with others. Only Knowledge and skills is acknowledged to have influence on the grades in the official grading criteria. The need to pay attention to the teachers’ beliefs and values and their influence on professional practice has been stressed by Penney et al. (2009). The teachers’ beliefs and values are also reflected in what criteria that are relevant for the grades given. Some common patterns can be detected in the official criteria that have low relevance or are missing in the constructs. The teachers sometimes had difficulties predicting which criteria had relevance to the grades given, and the criteria considered important by the teachers were not always reflected in the grades. Repertory Grid can be one conceivable option to make teachers’ grading visible and possible to understand. Drawing on the results of the study we want to discuss how to understand the inconsistency between teachers’ constructs and the official grading criteria. In particular we are interested in why the teachers tend to use internalised criteria and to discuss why they use curriculum-irrelevant criteria, why official criteria are missing and how to understand teachers’ inability to predict some constructs’ relevance to the grades.
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