Formal assessment in figure skating tends to be limited to test papers, competition protocol sheets that score skaters on the content and quality of performances, and from the occasional off-ice fitness tests. Coaches engage several forms of informal assessment as part of their coaching practice – both subconsciously and consciously. We watch our skaters, make quick judgements, take mental notes, and hopefully we adapt the athlete’s training accordingly. Here are some examples:
“Cindy is struggling with her lutz jump. We should work on that in the next lesson.”
“Mark has a competition coming up. He needs to start run-throughs of his program.”
“This exercise really seems to be helping. I should have my student do it every day.”
Though we had issues and concerns with the concept of formal assessment (which you’ll learn in more detail in this blog series) we wanted to go beyond the norm and somehow incorporate assessment within the Athlete Centered Skating curriculum. Our conception of assessments and standards, at the time, were informed by (a) our past experiences in formal education and in sports and (b) knowledge amassed from studying sport science research literature. What we knew from these experiences is that assessment is a potentially valuable, but extremely flawed, concept.
What potential value is there in assessment? In its most traditional form, assessment can be used as a tool to reflect the athlete’s recent accomplishments or to measure progress over a given time period. This has always been important to us. However, we also wanted to address the unique features and emphases of our curriculum; to communicate details that aren’t easily noticed from watching a practice; and to hold ourselves accountable for creating a learning experience that adapts to the unique needs of each athlete. Most importantly, to make our assessments truly effective, we wanted them to be future-oriented… not only in the sense of predicting future performance based on a review of the past performances but future-oriented in the sense that the assessment informs future learning(more on this later).
We dedicated two years to critique our current assessments and deeply reflect on the concept so we could make them more effective; more useful. We turned to the research literature again and reviewed assessment literature in athlete development and psychology research. We also dove into assessment research in academics literature. We read (and re-read) research journals and textbooks; met with academics, psychologists, and other professionals; polled coaches; tinkered with newer versions of our assessment forms and ran background ‘simulations’ over different periods of time to test results; took notes and drew sketches. We did this while we sat quietly in cafés, waited in line at stores, on airplanes, during lunch breaks, weekends, ice makes – even vacations.
We learned that a large body of evidence claims that assessment is a vital part of any program that promotes ‘learning’ but, in its traditional form, is greatly flawed and ineffective as we suspected from our own experiences [see: (Baker, Cobley et al. 2017)for discussion in sports and (Davies and Wavering 1999, Boud 2007, Boud and Falchikov 2007, Joughin 2009, Macdonald and Joughin 2009, Evans 2013, Nicol 2014)for discussion in academics].
This blog series will describe and contrast assessment in its traditional (called assessment of learning) and learner-centered (called assessment for learning) forms, lessons we learned from the research literature, and what we want our Athlete Centered Skating assessments to achieve in the future.
Questions for parents
Please take time to deeply think about the question(s) below and provide sincere answers. The questions do not have right or wrong answers but are meant to trigger your thinking about the assessment process.
- How did our previous assessments impact you as a skater or parent? Have you reflected on the content or did you give them a once over? If you reflected on the content, how did it influence you/ your child’s skating?
- What do you think of assessment practices in school? What makes them ‘effective’ in your opinion? Do you think they impact your child and, if so, how?