Background: Senior secondary physical education courses for certification continue to evolve with curricula reform occurring to ensure content is contemporary, student learning outcomes are maximised and assessment practices are valid for determining certification of students. The content of examinable senior secondary physical education courses privilege theoretical concepts over student physical performance of motor skills and this is reflected in the use of written assessment of cognitive outcomes in many courses internationally.
Purpose: Student examination data were analysed from the year 12 (exit year) written examination of Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Physical Education to determine if student performance varied by Area of Study (content). Additionally, it investigated whether there was a relationship between student performance in each of the four Areas of Study examined and overall examination performance and considered the alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy and the implications the findings may have on the teaching of VCE Physical Education in the future.
Methods: A secondary data analysis of student results from the 2011 (n = 9323; M = 5212, F = 4111) and 2012 (n = 8781; M = 5011, F = 3770) VCE Physical Education (Victoria, Australia) examinations were conducted. Examination questions were categorised by content, and means and standard deviations (SD) for discrete and continuous data were calculated, and categorical variables were presented as percentages. Regression analysis was also performed to establish the relationship between student cohort size and examination scores. An independent sample t-test was used to explore the examination scores and each Area of Study scores across 2011 and 2012. A one-way ANOVA were performed to investigate the differences of each Area of Study scores between examination grades from UG to A+.
Results: The results showed a positive correlation between VCE Physical Education student cohort size in a school and examination score in 2011 and 2012. Student performance differed across both years (2011 and 2012) and across Areas of Study within each of the years analysed. Students performed significantly lower on questions relating to the ‘planning, implementing and evaluating a training program’ Area of Study in 8 of the 11 possible grades (2011) and 10 of the possible 11 grades (2012) than in each of the other Areas of Study.
Discussion and conclusions: This study reveals that student performance on the external VCE Physical Education examination is not consistent across all content areas (Areas of Study). This may suggest that student difficulties in answering questions based on content in ‘planning, implementing and evaluating a training program’ result from topic or content difficulty rather than process or question difficulty. From these findings, implications for teaching examinable physical education effectively include the use of experiential learning and practical experiences to provide students with experiences from which they can draw knowledge when completing written assessment tasks. Additionally, the importance of having the required content knowledge to teach examinable physical education confidently for pre-service and in-service teachers is discussed.