The Great Unpacking: Preface (Part III)

This is the second part of the preface to our new blog post series: The Great Unpacking. If you haven’t read parts one & two, you’ll want to start there before continuing to read here.

So where were we? Oh yes, we had just seen how SHAPE America’s national standards can be unpacked into grade-level outcomes (GLOs), how those outcomes can be broken down into content blocks, and how the content blocks can be split up into learning pieces. Now it is time to see how to determine the evidence of learning so that we can track our students progress towards mastering those learning pieces (and, in turn, the content blocks, GLOs and, finally, the national standards which will help us make sure our students are on the right path towards developing into physically literate individuals.)

Ready? Here we go:

STEP TWO: Determining Evidence of Learning

So now we know which learning pieces our lessons will focus on, which will help us make sure our students are working on the content blocks we’ve identified, which will help us evaluate whether or not our students are reaching their grade-level outcomes, which will allow us to assess each students progress towards the national standards, which will help us reach the goal of our physical education program: ensuring that each student is developing into a physically literate individual. But how do we know if the students are mastering those learning pieces in the first place?

We need to determine which evidence we are looking for as “proof” of their mastery. Remember that evidence informs the teacher, the student, or both.

Let’s go back and take a look at one of the learning pieces we uncovered while unpacking GLO S1.M10.6:

learning piece

When determining the evidence that will allow you to evaluate your students’ mastery of each learning block, its really important to try and be as objective as possible when creating your evaluation criteria/rubrics. Evidence should be very white and black: having grey areas will slow you down and make it harder to provide your students with specific feedback that will help them continue to progress.

For the learning piece above, I would break it down into critical elements (actually, SHAPE America already did this for me). These elements would be:

critical elements

When assessing my students’ learning throughout, each of those pieces of evidence are “Yes” or “No” answers. Add them all together and you will have a very clear idea of where the student you are assessing is at in regards to their mastery of that learning piece.

But what if a learning piece is too difficult to break down into critical elements? Take this learning piece for example:

learning piece 2

In that case, I would create a rubric using the cupcake system that I got from Sarah Gietschier-Hartman in a post she wrote last summer.
cupcake levels
Based on the guidelines for each level of the cupcake system, I would write out a descriptive rubric that would help me gage where a student is at in regards to their mastery of the learning piece. The result would still translate into a score out of five, and now I would have a clear explanation to provide the student should they ask how they were graded (not too mention a very clear idea of what kind of feedback to provide them with to help them continue their progression).

One thing I have been trying as of late is getting my students to define what each level of the cupcake system looks like for any given learning piece. During class discussions, I would ask “Ok, what does a 1 look like when it comes to ‘Throws or strikes the object taking into account the opponent’s position’? How about a 2? 3? 4? 5?” I have the cupcakes on the whiteboard in my gym and I write down their answers on the board as we move through the levels. By the end of the discussion, I have a rubric that I have now co-constructed with my students, using language that they are both familiar and comfortable with. It’s been amazing!

You would then repeat this process for each learning piece until you have determined the all of the evidence you are looking for to “prove” your students have mastered the selected learning pieces.

Now it’s time to decide which tools will be best suited to help you collect that evidence…. but you’ll have to wait until next time for that.

The Great Unpacking blog post series preface will continue soon, so stay tuned! Be sure not to miss out on this post series, or any of’s future posts, by connecting with us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Email.

Joey Feith is a physical education teacher from Canada and the founder of


Joey Feith is the founder of He currently teaches elementary physical education at St. George’s School of Montreal in Quebec, Canada.