learning roadmap

#PhysEd Learning Roadmaps

One of the areas of my teaching that I’m constantly trying to improve is my assessment. Assessment isn’t really cool or exciting to talk about, but the reality is that it is a core component of effective teaching. As much as many of us shy away from talking about assessment in physical education, there is really no excuse for us not to be knocking our assessment practices out of the park.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. In no way whatsoever do I think my assessment practices are perfect: at times I have struggled to assess my students on an ongoing basis and I have failed to communicate what evidence I have collected to them in a timely manner that actually serves their growth and learning. The reality is that, given the chaotic, dynamic nature of physical education, assessing throughout my lessons is difficult (I can’t be the only one feeling this way). Again though, that’s just an excuse I kept telling myself. There is always a way.

Over the past year, I have had some success with my assessment. This blog post is about one of the major successes I’ve had: my #PhysEd Learning Roadmaps. Before I share the roadmap tool with you, let me give you a bit of a back story about where the idea came from:

A few years back, I stumbled upon the work of my friend Sarah Gietschier-Hartman. Sarah had been introducing rubrics to her students using a “cupcake analogy” (you can actually learn all about the cupcake analogy in this blog post by Sarah). The idea was pretty straightforward: to help students understand what the different levels of mastery look like by using language they are comfortable with. As I continued to watch Sarah’s work, I noticed that she eventually moved away from the cupcake analogy and starting using student-friendly labels for the different levels of mastery (I believe she worked with Amanda Stanec, another amazing #physed leader, on these labels):

  • Level One – Not Yet!
  • Level Two – Getting There!
  • Level Three – Got It!
  • Level Four – Wow!

I started using these labels in my own rubrics and teaching. The problem was that a) I wasn’t doing the work of defining what each level could look like in my students performance and b) I wasn’t sharing these levels with my students until the end of the unit to let them know how I had assessed their work. In other words, the rubrics were benefitting me (at least to some extent), but not my students.

This year, my professional goal is to do a better job at creating a culture of learning in my physical education classes. As I reflected on how I would do that, I realized that I needed to know ahead of time what I wanted my students to work towards and to communicate that vision to my students. Also, I wanted my students to understand that it is ok for them not to master a skill or concept on the first try and that they should not get down on themselves if they are having difficulty learning/mastering outcomes in class. I wanted my students to view their own learning as a journey towards mastery.

I wanted to provide them with a roadmap for that journey.

So that’s how I came about creating the Learning Roadmaps for my physical education lessons: visual rubrics that are showcased in the gym so that students can identify where they are at in their learning and what they can be doing to keep moving in the right direction. Here are a few examples of Learning Roadmaps I’ve created this year for the different grades I teach:

This Learning Roadmap was created for my Grade 6 Dance unit.

This Learning Roadmap was created for my Grade 1 Manipulative Skills unit.

This Learning Roadmap was created for my Grade 3 Fitness unit.

How I go about creating Learning Roadmaps:

It all starts with the unpacking process I learned from my friend Terri Drain and blogged about in the past. As I unpack outcomes, I determine the evidence of learning I will look for in my lessons to know when my students have mastered the outcome. That evidence of learning is what I will use to describe the “Got It” level for that outcome. From there, I will work backwards (to the best of my capacity) and determine what the “Getting There” level would look like. I then think about what an absolute beginner might look like in terms of mastery of that specific outcome and use that to describe the “Not Yet” level. Finally, I think about what the most advanced student might be able to do beyond the “Got It” level and use that to describe the “Wow” level.

FYI, a lot of this is guess work and comes from my professional judgement. That being said, I’ve been wrong at times in terms of how I describe each level. That’s ok… I’m still learning! If I need to update a level description, then I do so and inform my students. I’ll know for next year!

Also, when time permits, I try to get the students to describe each level. We’ll work through the descriptions throughout the start of the unit as we explore the outcomes we’re working on. Although I love this way of empowering my students, I haven’t made it a regular practice in my teaching yet. That being said, it is something I will continue to work towards in the future.

How I use the Learning Roadmaps in my teaching:

At the beginning of each unit, when I am presenting the unit’s challenge and outcomes, I introduce the Learning Roadmap to my class. The students are reminded that being at the “Not Yet” level is ok, especially when just starting out, and that they are aiming for the “Got It” level (which means they met the outcome). I let them know that the “Wow” level is for mastery that goes above and beyond what is expected of them at that grade level.

Throughout the unit, students use the Learning Roadmap to reflect on where they are at in the journey (usually through self-assessment reflection sheets and/or our class’ magnet board system). I use the roadmap when assessing my students work and performance in ongoing fashion throughout the unit. Having the rubric ready from the start of the unit helps me make informed decisions on each student’s progress and allows me to give students specific feedback as to how they can continue to improve.

At the end of the unit, the students (and parents) are informed as to how much progress they made their learning. Again, this is done using the Learning Roadmap I created at the start of the unit.

So those are my Learning Roadmaps! They’re basically just pretty-looking rubrics, but I’m really enjoying the way I’m using them in my teaching.

If you would like to give them a whirl, I added free, blank Learning Roadmap templates to the Visuals page. You can check them out and add text to them using your PDF editor of choice (e.g. Adobe Acrobat, Preview).

If you’re using rubrics in your teaching, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!


Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. Having taught elementary physical education for 10 years, Joey is now focused on helping physical educators grow their confidence and competence as teachers.