Techniques for Assessing Rhythmic Movement Skills

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

If you are hoping to learn more about how your students are growing in their capacities for rhythmic movement, then you probably want to find some assessment techniques. This lesson gives you some ideas to start with!

Understanding Rhythmic Movement

As a PE teacher at Valley Elementary School, Lauren has been working hard to incorporate more rhythmic movement activities into her instruction. This means that she is working on activities that ask her students to move in coordinated ways, often dancing or performing synchronized motion sequences.

Lauren and her students really enjoy the rhythmic movement activities she uses, but she realizes that she needs a better way to assess, or evaluate, her students' wherewithal.

After all, a strong assessment can inform Lauren's instruction and help her talk with students and families about their strengths and areas for improvement. She starts to think more about what techniques she might use to assess students' rhythmic movement skills.


First, Lauren thinks about the value of self-assessment, or having students assess their own movements and progress. Lauren knows that when students assess themselves, they develop their reflective capacities. Her students' assessments of what is easier and harder for them also help her know what to look for when she observes their motions.

Lauren usually uses the following questions to prompt self-assessment in her students:

  • What parts of these activities are going well for you, and how do you know?
  • What parts of these activities are hardest for you, and how do you know?
  • What would help you be better at these activities and enjoy them more, too?

Lauren reads her students' answers and sorts them into different categories based on commonalities and themes. Her discoveries help her plan her next several lessons with her students!

Using Videos

Lauren has also learned that video is a marvelous tool for assessing students' rhythmic movements. When they are dancing in class, she is so busy helping them, watching the whole group, or monitoring students who are struggling overtly, that she often loses track of the big picture.

Lauren sets up her phone on a stand that takes a video of her whole class dancing or moving at once. She watches it later and makes notes of whose movements stand out, who seems to be struggling, and what they seem to be struggling with. She notes which students seem to be evading the camera, too!

Setting and Measuring Specific Goals

When Lauren teaches a new rhythmic movement activity, she tries to set specific and clear goals for what she wants to teach or accomplish via the activity. For example, when she teaches her students an Irish step dance, she knows she wants them to be able to isolate their upper bodies and move their legs and feet quickly and in sequence.

Since Lauren has established a very specific goal, it is easier for her to assess and measure student progress toward this goal. On videos, watching her whole class, or watching students in small groups, she asks herself:

  • Is the upper body isolated?
  • Are the feet moving in the expected ways?
  • Are the legs moving in time to the music?

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