Student Progress & Safety in Physical Education Classes

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Physical education teachers have an important responsibility to monitor students' progress and safety in class. This lesson provides some strategies for successfully acting as a monitor.

Understanding Progress, Understanding Safety

As a physical education teacher at Montgomery Middle School, Jared knows that he has a wide range of responsibilities. He tries to make his PE classes fun, meaningful, and engaging for all of his students.

He also tries to make himself an important member of the school community, and to help students work toward fitness goals.

This year, Jared is thinking about the strategies he uses to monitor, or pay attention to and document, different aspects of his instruction. Specifically, he thinks that monitoring is relevant to:

  • student progress, or how students are growing and changing in relation to PE class, and
  • student safety, or how secure students feel, both physically and emotionally, in the context of his classes.

Adapting and Modifying Activities and Instruction

One reason that Jared monitors student progress and safety is so that he can appropriately modify, or alter, his curricular and instructional approaches to meet the individual and aggregate needs of his students.

For instance, when he monitors student progress, he learns that his students are faster runners on average than they used to be, but they are no more agile and are actually worse at catching and throwing balls. This helps Jared modify his curricular plans so that he can help students keep their speed up while developing these other skills.

He also uses monitoring to figure out that some students are feeling unsafe emotionally about taking risks in front of other students. This helps Jared adapt his instruction by spending more time talking with students about their feelings about their fitness, their bodies, and how to establish a strong PE community.

Organizational Strategies for Monitoring Progress and Safety

Monitoring student safety and progress can be very hard for Jared from an organizational standpoint, and he knows it is important to use specific strategies to keep his documentation in place. After talking to some colleagues, Jared learns that these strategies are often somewhat personal, and that teachers need to figure out what works for them. However, he has a few ideas.


For monitoring safety, Jared thinks it is important to do a visual sweep of the gym or outdoor area before the beginning of each new class. He also makes a habit of checking his equipment on a daily basis, or having a trustworthy student take over his job.

Jared positions his body centrally in the gym at all times, remaining alert to where the students are and to the level of risk they are taking. He documents incidents that might make students feel emotionally unsafe and follows up with them, as well as with their homeroom teachers and families.


Monitoring students' progress means keeping track of their skills and skill development in different facets of PE class. Jared keeps a file folder dedicated to every student that he teaches. In these folders, he records:

  • anecdotal notes about how students are doing in class
  • results from any assessments, races, or timed tests he gives
  • photos of the students engaging in new and exciting physical activities

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