Evidence to inform effective physical education policy, pedagogy and practice in New South Wales secondary schools

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This doctoral dissertation is presented by publication to provide evidence that is capable of informing effective physical education (PE) policy, pedagogy and practice in New South Wales (NSW) secondary schools. This thesis contains two distinct phases of research. Firstly, this thesis presents a systematic review of published literature on the effectiveness of physical education in promoting participation in physical activity (PA), enjoyment of physical activity and movement skill instruction and practice in children and adolescents. Twenty three (23) papers met the inclusion criteria established for this review and were rated independently by three reviewers using a 10-item methodological quality scale derived from the CONSORT 2010 statement. The results of the review detail the nature, scope and focus of intervention strategies and the reported outcomes of the interventions. The most effective strategies to increase children’s levels of physical activity and improving movement skills in physical education were direct instruction teaching methods and providing teachers with sufficient and ongoing professional development in using these PE instruction methods. The review revealed a lack of statistical power and high quality evaluations to draw conclusions concerning the effectiveness of interventions conducted in PE to improve enjoyment outcomes. It is argued that adequately powered interventions that target movement skills in secondary schools and evaluate school sport curriculum are urgently needed. The second phase of the research reports the cross-sectional and longitudinal levels of physical activity, lesson context and teacher interaction students receive during PE in NSW secondary schools and how student enjoyment of PE changes over these first two years of secondary schooling. Eighty one (n=81) PE lessons were randomly observed in 2008 and then followed up 12-months later in 2009 (n=51) using systematic direct observation (System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time). During the same months in 2008 and 2009, 560 students consented to completing an enjoyment of PE questionnaire. There was a reduction in the PE time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (Baseline= 56.9%, Follow-up 52.1%, Mean Difference= -4.8%; p=.777) and vigorous physical activity (VPA) (Baseline= 20.8%, Follow-up= 12.9%, Mean Difference= -7.9%; p=.009). Significant declines also occurred in percentages of PE time spent in management (Baseline= 30.8%, Follow-up= 22.3%, Mean Difference = -8.8%; p<.0001) and in the time that teachers spent promoting PA (Baseline= 30.8%, Follow-up= 10.1%, Mean Difference = -20.7%; p<.0001). Increases in PE time spent in fitness (Baseline= 7.1%, Follow-up= 10.6%, Mean Difference =3.5%; p=.191) and game play (Baseline= 43.5%, Follow-up= 46.6%, Mean Difference =3.1%; p=.199) were also observed. Students enjoyed PE in Year 7 but their enjoyment of PE declined slightly as they progressed through Year 8. There was a small (Baseline= 45.8, Follow-up= 44.0, Mean Difference= -1.8, d= -0.30) but significant (p<.001) overall mean decline in enjoyment of PE between Year 7 and Year 8. The decline in enjoyment of PE was greater among girls (Mean Difference=-1.3) regardless of school-type. Being active with their peers had the largest negative effect size (d= -0.40) on boys enjoyment of PE and changing clothes had the largest negative effect size (d=-0.42) on girls. Based on the evidence presented in this dissertation, schools should consider changing their PE uniform policies and increasing teacher and peer support strategies in PE to maintain enjoyment of this subject.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Wollongong
  • Okely, Anthony, Supervisor, External person
  • Pearson, Philip, Supervisor, External person
  • Cotton, Wayne, Advisor, External person
Award date18 Jul 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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