Designing Learning Roadmaps

Designing Learning Roadmaps

For this episode of The #PhysEd Show Vlog, I decided to break down how I design the new version of my Learning Roadmaps, which I introduced in my “Meaningful Grades in Physical Education” blog post.

So, let’s be real about it: a lot of physical education teachers don’t really know what they are doing when it comes to assessment in PE. I’m pretty confident about that statement because I have met WAY too many teachers whose assessment is all based on the terrible three: dressing out, effort, and participation. I don’t blame them for this: in most cases, teachers are not receiving the professional development or mentorship that they need to confidently make assessment a core aspect of their teaching.

One of the key things we need to do if we’re going to elevate ourselves as a profession is to make sure that we develop our capacity to use assessment in ways that truly support our students learning. Remember: our goal is to make sure that our students develop the knowledge, skills, understandings, and values that they’ll need in order to continue to develop their physical literacy throughout their lifetime and just get the most out of life. All of that requires learning and – make no mistake – assessment is central to learning.

Assessment is what allows you – the teacher and the learner – to measure progress against a goal and then use that information to set new goals and determine next actions.

Not only does assessment help you determine where you are going, where you’re currently at, and how to close the gap, it’s essential to keeping you in that cycle as you continue to go deeper and deeper into your learning. One of the earliest challenges that we have as teachers when it comes to assessment is understanding “what” to assess.

Depending on where you live, you may have government-issued learning standards or competencies for physical education. If you’re lucky, those standards have be broken down into smaller, grade-level outcomes which give you some insight into the content that makes up those overarching standards. As teachers, it’s then your job to “unpack” those outcomes in order to figure out the skills, knowledge, and understandings that packed within them.

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Now that’s tedious work, but it’s work worth doing because once you know the knowledge, understandings, and skills (which I’ll refer to at times as the KUD: know, understand, do) that are packed into each outcome, you can then start determining what the evidence of learning is that you’ll be seeking out. In other words, with those KUDs in hand, you get to try and answer the question “what new behaviours will prove that learning took place”?

That evidence of learning, the pre-determined new behaviours, that will serve as the goals that you will be measuring progress against as you assess you students in class.

Here’s the thing though: those goals need to be presented in a way that is accessible to your students. They need to not only clearly understand what the destination is, but they also need to have some information on how to get there so that they can course-correct along the way.

Imagine if I said “I’m going to hike to this cabin in the woods that’s 20km away”. If I just started hiking and kept hiking until I knew I had hiked 20km, there’s no doubt that I did a ton of work but chances are I didn’t make it to the cabin. Instead, I just got really lost in the woods. Now, if I had some tools like a compass and a map, I could check in on my progress throughout the hike to make sure that I was heading in the right direction so that I make it safely to the cabin.

Ongoing, formative assessment serves as that map and compass that helps you ensure that your keeping your learning on track. Even better, if you break a larger learning goal down into smaller milestones, it creates this natural system that invites your learners to check in, figure out where they are, and determine what needs to happen next in order to reach their goals.

In my teaching, I create Learning Roadmaps that do just that: they break learning down into observable steps so that we – my student and I – can determine exactly where we are at in terms of learning.

Learning Roadmaps

The role of a Learning Roadmap is to define what learning can look like throughout the learning journey.

My Roadmaps break learning down into four milestone levels. I’ve been using this language to mark the milestones for years after learning about it on Twitter from Sarah Gietschier-Hartman and Heather Gardner, so shout-out to them! 🙌

The first level is the “Not Yet!” milestone. This is where learners begin their journeys and it basically describes a learner who can’t do, doesn’t know, or doesn’t get whatever it is we’re learning yet. One of the most challenging aspects of presenting this level is doing so in a way that removes the negative stereotype of “I can’t” around it and also doesn’t invite students to compare themselves to others. Doing so requires a lot of mindful effort on the teacher’s behalf in order to create a classroom culture in which students understand that being at this level just means that you have a lot of learning that you GET to do and that is something that can be really exciting! You’re stepping into the Wild West, the Final Frontier… that’s freaking cool!

Once you begin to move past the “Not Yet” level, you’re getting into the “Getting There!” zone. Getting There is where you start to see the seeds of learning take root and start to manifest themselves in your students behaviours. The evidence of learning that you’ve set as a goal may not be on display consistently yet, but it starting to intentionally present itself more and more in your students efforts.

The “Got It!” level is where you start to see those new behaviours being demonstrated on a consistent basis. The student understands what they are doing and are doing it intentionally in class. The “Got It” level represents the desired target for learning based on the content you unpacked from the grade-level outcome.

So for some learners, they may get to “Got It” pretty quickly. Maybe they learn fast, maybe they’re coming in with prior experience… whatever the case may be you want to be able to continue to challenge these students in class so that your lessons continue to provide purpose and meaning to them. That’s why the Learning Roadmaps always have a “Wow!” stretch level. This milestone represents what learning would look like if the student went above and beyond what was expected of them at their grade-level. It’s tricky because a lot of students see this final milestone and think “that’s my goal”, so you may start crafting your “wow” levels to meet those expectations. However, keep in mind that this level is supposed to really stretch your students learning and probably won’t be reached by many during your units.

Now, within each milestone, I like to identify three student “look-fors” or indicators of learning that will define that level. As I craft these indicators based on the content I unpacked from the outcome, I always try to select one that focuses on skill, one that focuses on knowledge, and one that focuses on understanding.

I started doing this in an effort to assess my students in a more holistic fashion. Some kids can do things but don’t really understand or know how they do it. That makes it hard for them to transfer that skill into new situations. Other kids can’t do the thing (yet!), but they understand what’s needed and know how to go about it. In PE, we have limited time with our students and in a lot of cases, the kids just need more time to get the “doing” part down pat, especially when they already have those seeds of future success developed in their minds. Ensuring that I also focus on the knowledge and understanding pieces of mastery means that I am still communicating the progress that the student has made in their learning despite the lack of mastery at the skill level.

Aside from wanting to assess skill, knowledge and understanding, there is another reason why I make sure that I also select three student indicators per outcome that I am assessing and it has to do with how I grade my students in physical education.

Earlier this year, I developed a student grade scale with the intention of making it as simple as possible to explain to my students, their parents, my admin, or any stakeholder exactly how a grade came to be.

Despite how I actually feel about them, grades serve a purpose in that they indicate progress towards mastery and help determine the work that is left to be done in order to keep moving your learning forward. Seeing that I’m obligated to provide grades, I figured I might as well come up with a system that helped make grades make sense and inform students on how they can keep learning.

The whole system depends on there being three indicators per outcome so that I can quickly determine exactly what grade a student will receive based on the assessment data. It’s a little tricky to visualize and it’s not the focus of this video, so I’ll let you learn all about my Meaningful Grades system by checking out my blog post on it which I’ll link to in the show notes.

Learning Roadmap Design In Action

Ok, so let me give you an example of how I would design a learning roadmap for a specific outcome in physical education.

For the purpose of this example, I’ll be using outcome S2.M5.6 from SHAPE America’s National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes document which states that students should be able to “reduce open space by not allowing the catch (denial) or by allowing the catch but not the return pass” which is one of the outcomes I build my grade 6 invasion games unit around.

Unpacking The Outcome

So the first thing I’ll have to do here is unpack this grade-level outcome to uncover all of the content hiding inside of it. I’ll do this by breaking it down into content blocks and then reflecting on each block I’ve identified by asking myself “what are the skills, knowledge, and understandings a student would need to demonstrate in order to show me that they’ve mastered this content”.

Once I’ve gone through that process, I’ll have identified all kinds of KUDs that can serve as evidence of learning.

Evidence of Learning

With all of that evidence laid out in front of me, I’m going to take a global view of it all and determine the three student indicators that I think will best represent mastery of this grade-level outcome.

As I said before, I’m pick three in order to be aligned to my grade scale and to have my skill, knowledge, and understanding bases covered. However, I’m also limiting myself to three because I wouldn’t be able to realistically assess and measure all of this content that I pulled out of the GLO. That said, identifying the content that doesn’t make it into the three student indicators is still important as it deepens my own understanding of the outcome and will help guide my instruction, feedback, assessment, and planning as I get into this unit.

So, for this outcome, the three student indicators I selected are:

  1. I can describe both on-the-ball and denial defence in my own words. (K)
  2. I can quickly transition between on-the-ball and denial defence in response to who is in possession of the ball. (D)
  3. I can understand how to space myself from the player I am guarding based on where the ball is. (U)

I chose these three since the big idea I got from the outcome once I had unpacked it all was that I want my students to be able to understand when to switch between on-the-ball, denial, and help defence and be able to effectively play all three in a game situation. This big idea is also what I used to rewrite the GLO into a unit-level learning goal that is more accessible to my students: I can play both on-the-ball and denial defence in invasion games.

Mapping Out The Learning

So, those three student indicators will define the “Got It” level in my Learning Roadmap, so I’ll go ahead and put them right into my Roadmap template.

Download The Learning Roadmap Template

I even included a Google Slides version of it in the download (check the README file).

With my “Got It” level defined, what I’ll do next is look at the first student “look for” and decide what it would look like at the “Getting There” level. I find that working backwards like this really helps me deepen my understanding of what learning will potentially look like in class.

Once “Getting There” is defined, I’ll then write the “Not Yet” version of that student indicator. This level is pretty simple as it usually gets summed up as “I can’t do” or “I don’t know” whatever the indicator is followed up by “YET” at the end of the statement.

With the first three milestones mapped out, that’s when I look at everything across the spectrum and ask myself what would be considered a “wow” for this indicator. Again, this level has to be a real stretch goal for the learning, so what I’ll sometimes do is look at this same outcome but at higher grade levels to help me understand which direction I should be pushing the students in.

Once that first indicator is mapped out across all four milestone levels, I’ll then repeat this whole process with the next two “look fors” to complete this GLO’s mapping within the Learning Roadmap.

From there, I’ll start all over again with any other outcomes I’m building my unit around. Just FYI, I usually try and limit the total amount of outcomes I base a unit on to two or three. More than that means you’re trying to assess 20+ student indicators and the reality is that you’re either a) not going to do that or b) just skim the surface on most.

Remember: less is often more. Do less, go deeper, and achieve more with your students.

Conclusion

So that’s how I design my Learning Roadmaps, which are an absolutely essential piece of my assessment efforts.

Remember: to not take your assessment work seriously is to completely underserve your students. Assessment is absolutely vital to learning and is a core component of the “plan-instruct-assess-learn” cycle. Designing rubrics like these Learning Roadmaps of mine gives everything from your planning, instruction, feedback, activity design and assessment…. It gives it all a sense of purpose and direction. Most importantly, Learning Roadmaps help make the learning goals you set for your students accessible to them and empowers them to reflect and self-assess throughout their learning journey.

I hope this episode of The #PhysEd Show Vlog has been useful to you and that it helps you take your teaching to the next level.

If you enjoyed the show, please take a moment to like, share and subscribe so that we can get this message out to as many teachers as possible.

Thank you so much for reading! Happy teaching!

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