In the field of education, the international trend is to turn to criterion-referenced grading in the hope of achieving accountable and consistent grades. Despite a national criterion-referenced grading system emphasising knowledge as the only base for grading, Swedish physical education (PE) grades have been shown to value non-knowledge factors, such as students’ characteristics and behaviour. In 2011, a new national curriculum was implemented which attempts to deal with the problem by prescribing specific knowledge requirements with a clear progression as the only basis for different grades. The aim of the present study is to explore the impact of the new knowledge requirements on what teachers consider important when assigning grades. It is also to discuss what non-knowledge-related aspects (if any) teachers continue to look for and why these seem to remain resilient to the reform. The Repertory Grid technique was employed to interview the teachers before (2009) and after the implementation (2013). During the interviews, the grading of 45 students was discussed, which generated 125 constructs. After the implementation, there was a near doubling of knowledge constructs, half as many motivation constructs and an almost total elimination of constructs based on confidence and social skills. While motivational factors were still considered valuable for the award of a higher grade, clear criteria seemed to be important, but too limited for the teachers’ needs. In order to understand the persistence of motivational factors, we discuss the results in relation to Bernstein’s interrelated message systems of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. We emphasise the need to discuss how valid grades can be achieved and, at the same time, give value to the regulative discourse in order to realise the overarching national goals of values and norms in education and PE.
In the thesis the aim is to investigate different aspects of what teachers value when grading in Swedish physical education (PE) and to analyses how sociological background factors impact students’ grades. Grades in PE have included aspects other than those prescribed in the grading criteria, for instance motivation and effort. Teachers sometimes find their value-setting difficult to articulate and refer to a “gut feeling”. In order to explore both explicit and implicit forms of value-setting, the Repertory Grid interview technique is employed.
The thesis includes four sub-studies, three interview studies with Swedish PE teachers and a fourth study based on registry data from the Swedish National Agency for Education. The data of all students leaving nine-year compulsory school in 2014 (n=95317) is analysed to explore how sociological background factors, such as migration background, parents’ education, school provider and gender, affect PE grades.
The results reveal aspects of grading that are not detectable in the official description of the grading assignment and highlight problems that teachers need to address when grading. Four themes are discerned in the teachers’ grading practices: motivation, knowledge, confidence and social skills. The implementation of a new national curriculum with specified knowledge requirements seems to improve the alignment with the national criteria, but there is still a gap between policy and practice. The knowledge requirements for movement are often interpreted as performances in competitive sports, even if the teachers try to find other interpretations. The odds ratio for getting a higher grade in PE is greater for the variables migration background and parents’ education than for the other investigated variables. The concepts formulated by Bernstein are applied to explore the relations between teachers’ grading practices and cultural and political influences and to discuss how the tensions between different interests could affect teachers’ grading.
The conclusion is that the gap between policy and practice confirmed in this study is related to tensions between the interests and purposes of different agents, all of whom strive to influence steering documents and practice. Cultural and political influences need to be considered and facilitate discussions about how to understand which knowledge is valued in PE and who has better possibilities to assimilate it.