How a laser-sharp focus on educational outcomes in health and physical education benefits both teachers and students

How a laser-sharp focus on educational outcomes in health and physical education benefits both teachers and students

A focus on the educative purpose of HPE is central to the national curriculum. It means that HPE teachers can reflect, adjust and tailor their lessons to have a lasting impact on their students.

This is the third in a five-part video series on the five propositions of the Australian HPE curriculum from Monash researchers Karen Lambert and Justen O’Connor.

In this video

Why we need to value ourselves as educators

Karen: As HPE educators, we need to value ourselves as professionals and take ourselves seriously. We’re important. We’re important in a school context and we are important in a life context. We have an impact not just in our classes but in our schools. What we do in those settings can then extend into our communities and the rest of society.

Justen: We need to have explicit focus on what we are teaching young people and why – our educative purpose.  For too long we’ve relied on an assumption that learning is occurring.

The reality is often we don’t really know. We need to sharpen the pencil a little bit, take stock of our impact and recognise what we are doing has value.  But we need to do to make that value explicit and clear.

Go for a holistic, long-term approach

Karen: As a discipline, we’re moving towards the holistic development of young people. We’re not just thinking about them in their 60-minute class or the unit of work they come to or the year they are with us.

Rather, we are supporting them for their entire time at the school. So what that means is that everything we do needs to be developmentally appropriate. It needs to be sequenced and it needs to be targeted towards the specific needs of the young people.

A young person in Year 7 is going to need different things and different support to one in Year 9, 11 or 12.  It’s a more pastoral approach we can play and a neat idea when thinking about the educative purpose of HPE.

Justen: We don’t want to be second cousin to the more important units. We want to be the most important unit. If we are going to achieve this goal, then we need to represent the learning that occurs as the result of our teaching.

Our educative purpose is not to keep students busy, happy and good. It’s not about maintaining order. It’s about what is our impact, and accounting for that impact.

What will your students remember of your lessons?

Karen: Everything we do combines to help create a young person who can adopt and absorb the ideas from our health and physical education program.

But it goes further than that. Can we have a vision of the future for our students at the Year 7, and at the end of school? When they are 21, 35, 50 or 80?

When we focus on our educative purpose, we think about the kind of influence our teaching can have on their lives. We may never know we’ve had that influence but it helps us be better teachers.

It helps young people construct a future that is optimistic and positive with regards to their health and physical activity.

family running together
Your lessons help young people construct a future that is optimistic and positive with regards to their health and physical activity.

Gathering data helps both teachers and students

Justen: We need to use appropriate assessment tools to support what we are doing.  It means our learners can appreciate the journey they are on.

We should be able to know where our learners are at before we start. That involves gathering data and evidence. It doesn’t have to be complicated or extensive. It doesn’t need a large test.

Brainstorm what students know about a topic and gather data. This helps understand where we need to get to. It helps establish goals and learning objectives, and gives us a direction.  We don’t want to be rudderless in this process.

Why goals need to be set in the context of our overall purpose

Karen: Having great goals is a fabulous idea, but it’s best to set them within a clear educative purpose.

I find as a teacher I don’t always know where my students are at. By reflecting, I ask: Am I fulfilling my goals, outcomes and objectives?

My focus is about being really explicit about the educational outcomes and learning intentions, and reflecting on them.

How do you know if you are on the right track with your students?

Justen: As we go through the process we can use formative assessment to know if we’re on the right track or whether we need to readjust or recalibrate our lessons.

It makes it explicit for our learners so they can see the value in the hard work that helps them achieve their end goal.

How do we map out that learning process out across the day, across five days, five weeks and a semester? Even think about 20 years from now: what will our students be able to say they learned in the class?

Students in physical education class
How do you know if you are on the right track with your students?

How thinking about the future can help you as a teacher

Karen: Be explicit in the learning outcomes for students, at the start of teaching sessions, unit or years. But also at the start of every week, day and lesson.

But ask: do the students actually get what we are teaching? This is my conundrum. I’m never really sure. A feature of being a teacher focusing on educative purpose is that you can focus on your own practices and improve them.

There are signs along the way you can note. Summative assessment activities help. Set up learning stories at the start of a unit, or a week or a day and discover where young people are at.

Come back to it at the end, but also mid-semester. You can do one minute essays, do clicks, a show of hands, heads down, thumbs up, anything that tells you that your students got it.

A game of dodgeball is not a rainy-day plan

Justen: It’s time to move way from doing three-four week cycles of games and sports just to keep everyone happy and engaged, and whacking out a game of dodgeball if it’s raining.

Every activity we do should have an educative purpose. What will your students learn as a result of this investment in time? How do you account for it? How do you report that, and what will you say to the young people you are working with?

A portfolio of work is an excellent way for young people to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and understanding they’ve developed in your class. It documents a range of learning and gives an educative focus to what you do.

It’s a neat way to capture information and build an evidence base to show what learning has occurred. It goes a long way to representing us as professionals.


Developed by Monash University and published in collaboration with ACHPER, Health and Physical Education: The Five Propositions is a set of five cards that can be used by teachers, educators and university students as a tool to help support their emerging understandings of the five propositions of the new Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education.

These cards are available through the ACHPER website.