Primary Physical Education Curriculum Development: Teacher and Pupil Experiences of ‘Student Designed Games’ by Kevin McKenzie

Kevin McKenzie is a class teacher and a PE teacher at Brunstane Primary School in Edinburgh. In this blog, he presents an overview of his practitioner enquiry that explores the ways in which his pupils engaged with the curriculum model – ‘Student Designed Games’.

Primary Physical Education Curriculum Development: Teacher and Pupil Experiences of ‘Student Designed Games’ by Kevin McKenzie

Enquiry Focus and Questions

Within Scotland, Curriculum for Excellence has provided an opportunity for schools to develop their own individual curriculum to reflect their context. With this in mind, I wanted to design a practitioner enquiry to support the development of the primary P.E. curriculum, relevant to my current context.  Working in a small city primary school with a primary 5 class, the following questions guided my enquiry:

  • In what ways does the ‘Student Designed Games’ (SDG) curriculum model support children’s engagement within physical education across the four domains of learning; social, emotional, physical and cognitive?
  • How can children’s perceptions of this curriculum model be captured and incorporated into curriculum development?

Background Literature

Four Domains of Learning

Recent literature on primary P.E. has emphasised the valuable contribution it can make to holistic learning across the four domains of learning social, emotional, physical and cognitive (Carse, Jess and Keay, 2017). At first, I was unsure about the appropriateness of using the specific language of the four domains with the children, but I found by using images and clear descriptions of them during active demonstrations and teaching input, they were able to grasp them, and it helped them to frame their thinking.

Student Designed Games

As a physical education curriculum model, Student Designed Games (SDG) aims to promote strategies for creativity, cooperation and skill development. Hastie (2010) suggests that this is achieved by setting up a sequence of lessons which help pupils plan, design, test and refine a game that they have either created themselves or adapted from an existing game. SDG can support learning across all four domains by challenging pupils to ensure their games are inclusive, clear, cooperative and competitive.

 Curriculum Development

There has been recognition within educational change literature of the valuable role that teachers and pupils play in curriculum development (Drew et al., 2016; Carse 2015).  Therefore, in this research it was important to capture both my thoughts, as the teacher, and the children’s thoughts about our learning and experiences through SDG.  By capturing our learning and experiences my aim was to then respond to this to further develop the P.E. curriculum.


To encourage the children to reflect on their learning in relation to the four domains of learning, I adapted Wall’s (2008) pupil view templates to incorporate each of the domains of learning.  Pupil view templates are a cartoon prompt with thought and speech bubbles to facilitate pupil response and reflect their thinking of their learning experience.  Wall (2008) describes pupil view templates as a visual method with the “aim to be a research tool that can be empirically influential and powerful, while also having an impact upon the pedagogical processes within classrooms” (p. 25).  Pupils completed pupil view templates at three points within the sequence of student designed games lessons, one at the beginning, middle and end.  To complement the pupil view templates, after every lesson I completed a teacher view template. The aim of this method was to capture my observations and thinking about the children’s engagement and learning in the lessons.

To support the children to reflect on and engage in discussion about their experiences and learning in physical education I used photographs and videos from lessons, which had been recorded by pupils.  These resources acted as an assessment tool, a stimulus for reflection and a further form of data.

Findings and Discussion

The findings from my enquiry suggested that, for this group of children, SDG supported their learning across the four domains. This is evidenced in their discussion and the pupil view templates where the children recorded their thoughts on their learning within the four domains.  Furthermore, some children could provide specific examples of how they had progressed their learning within the domains.

The children’s responses on the pupil view templates were refreshingly honest and candid.  The children expressed their enjoyment of SDG, but a key issue emerged in the difficulties the children faced in their social and emotional learning.  The children reflected that they often found it difficult to interact in their groups, this is something that I had also noted from my observations.  Reflecting on the data from the pupil view templates at the beginning of the sequence of lessons it was evident that the children encountered difficulties in their social and emotional learning.  These difficulties manifested in the children finding it difficult to interact and communicate within their groups and impacted on their physical and cognitive engagement with the lessons.  In response to the difficulties the children were having in their social and emotional learning, I intervened to offer support through my teaching.  At the end of the sequence of lessons, when the children had the responsibility of teaching their game to others, it was evident that interaction and communication between the children in their groups had improved.  I think that this may partly have emerged from the ownership the children felt for their learning by sharing their game with others.

The pupil view templates, video and photographs were an effective way of capturing pupil learning and reflections on SDG and I could then use the pupils’ responses to develop the curriculum.  Casey and Hastie (2011) suggest that SDG provides pupils with a positive way to develop their understanding of P.E., to challenge themselves at an appropriate level and to take ownership of their learning.  The findings from my enquiry reflect this and lead me to conclude that in my school context SDG is an approach which can support children’s learning across the four domains and therefore, has a key role to play within the P.E. curriculum.

For my next enquiry, I decided to build on the findings from this enquiry to continue looking at pupil and teacher view templates, but this time using ‘Teaching Games for Understanding’ with a ‘Central Net’ focus as a curriculum approach and with a Primary 3 class. Watch this space…

For any questions about this blog, please email Kevin at:


Carse, N., Jess, M., & Keay, J. (2017). Primary physical education: Shifting perspectives to move forwards, European Physical Education Review (special edition on primary physical education)

Carse, N. (2015). Primary teachers as physical education curriculum change agents. European Physical Education Review, 21(3), 309-324, DOI: 1356336X14567691

Casey, A. and Hastie, P. (2011) Students and Teacher Responses to a Unit of Student-Designed Games. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 295-312.

Drew, V., Priestley, M., & Michael, M. K. (2016). Curriculum development through critical collaborative professional enquiry. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 1(1), 92-106.

Hastie, P. (2010) Student-Designed Games: Strategies for Promoting creativity, Cooperation, and Skill Development. Human Kinetics: United States.

Wall, K. (2008) Understanding Metacognition through the Use of Pupil Views Templates: Pupil Views of Learning to Learn. Thinking Skills and Creativity. Vol. 3, pp. 23–33.