During years of taking teams to sports fixtures as a PE teacher, I would reinforce to pupils that it is ok to lose when you play to your potential. The focus here was on performance (process) over result (outcome). ‘I like to win, but it is ok to lose’, I would say.

With this same mindset, I prioritised high quality teaching (process) over assessment against a standard (outcome) – though I would now say that high quality teaching overlaps assessment against a standard (tricky to know where one finishes and the other starts!).

Over time, I have come to believe that in some contexts, a shift in emphasis may be required. With key competencies that we want all pupils to realise, outcome can become as important as process.

To explain this with a simple metaphor, think of an inflatable stand-up paddle board. 

Blowing up the paddle board is the process. A fully blown up paddle board is the outcome. In this situation, the outcome is more important than the process. It matters more that the paddle board is fully blown up (outcome) than how it is blown up (process).

How do I know the paddle board is fully blown up?

By reading the pressure gauge and comparing this to the recommended pressure, I know how well the board is blown up – how well I have achieved my outcome. Reading the pressure gauge is my assessment. The recommended pressure is my standard. 

I know how well I have achieved an outcome when I assess against a standard.

Using the same example, by ignoring the pressure gauge and the recommended pressure, the following is likely to happen:

By observation alone, I will see the board begin to expand. I will watch as the board unfolds itself. It will slowly take shape and appear ready to use. But I will not know if the board is fully pumped up and fit for purpose – and this will affect its value and my enjoyment.

The pressure gauge and the recommended pressure enable us to fully pump up a paddle board. An outcome can enable us to monitor all pupils’ progress towards achieving a key competency.

Let’s imagine physical education is our paddle board. Do we know how much air we have inside it? And how much air do we need for all pupils to paddle long into adulthood?

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