A focus on the ‘how’ of meaningful PE in primary schools by Stephanie Beni

Stephanie Beni is a doctoral student studying physical education at Brock University in Canada. She also teaches physical education part-time to private and home schooled students. She is a member of the Learning About Meaningful Physical Education (LAMPE) research team based in Ireland and Canada. Her current research interests lie in identifying practical pedagogical strategies by which practitioners may promote a focus on meaningful experiences in physical education and physical activity contexts and in teachers’ professional learning in physical education.

A Focus on the How of Meaningful PE in Primary Schools

In his 2019 Cagical Lecture Address at the AIESEP World Congress, Mikael Quennerstedt (2018) highlighted the need for a focus on the why, what, and how of physical education (PE) in order to promote PE experiences for students that are both educative and meaningful.  With the topic of meaningfulness in PE gaining interest in recent years, both the why and what of meaningful PE have been well articulated (Metheny, 1969; Kretchmar, 2006, 2007; Beni, Fletcher, Ní Chróinín, 2017).  However, the how – specific pedagogical strategies by which teachers might prioritize an emphasis on meaningfulness – has remained somewhat elusive. This gap in understanding how to promote meaningfulness in PE is the focus of this research.

Using a collaborative self-study approach, Tim, Déirdre and I examined my experience of attempting to prioritize meaningfulness for my students in primary PE.  The study took place during a 16-lesson unit on striking and fielding games in my classroom in a small private school in Southern Canada where privately- and home-schooled students of a range of ages (7-14 years) were integrated into the same PE class. Six students submitted exit slips and four participated in one-on-one interviews. Tim acted as my critical friend – reading and responding to my twice-weekly journal entries.

From the outset of the unit I planned for a prioritization on meaningfulness by emphasising five features of meaningful experiences we had identified through our review of literature (outlined below). Importantly, I made my prioritization on meaningfulness through these features explicit to my students and welcomed them to be part of the process of working toward their inclusion in our classroom. A brief summary of the particular pedagogical strategies I used to promote each of these features is highlighted in the table below:

Positive Social Interactions• Varying group selection methods (student-vs-teacher selected; random-vs-purposeful)
• Providing opportunities for individual, partner, and group work
• Allowing students space to ‘struggle’ through learning to manage interactions with peers
• Promoting a positive teacher-student relationship by listening to and incorporating students’ ideas
Fun• Including students in design of play-based activities
• Utilizing elements of TGfU and Sport Education teaching models
• Hosting a culminating tournament and festival
Increasing Motor Competence• Including contextualized skill-development activities in each lesson
• Promoting a focus on tactical understanding of the game category
• Allowing students to design skill development activities or choose from several options
• Allowing team-led practice opportunities
Appropriate Challenge• Modifying games and activities to suit the needs of all learners
• Gradually shifting responsibility for making modifications onto students
• Allowing students to make choices regarding their level of challenge
• Promoting personal goal setting over externally referenced competition
Personally Relevant Learning• Incorporating skills (physical, cognitive, social) emphasised in each lesson in a culminating activity
• Explicitly helping students make connections between their learning and their lives beyond the classroom
• Utilising autonomy-supportive strategies (e.g. allowing choice, involving students in decision-making processes)

Importantly, my students responded very positively to the use of these strategies. It is our hope that this paper offers some practical guidelines for practitioners interested in prioritizing meaningfulness in primary PE in an attempt to promote educative experiences.



Beni, S., Fletcher, T., & Ní Chróinín, D. (2017). Meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport: A review of the literature. Quest, 69(3), 291–312.

Kretchmar, R. S. (2006). Ten more reasons for quality physical education. Journal of Physical Education. Recreation & Dance, 77(9), 6–9.

Kretchmar, R. S. (2007). What to do with meaning? A research conundrum for the 21st century. Quest, 59, 373–383.

Quennerstedt, M. (2018). Physical education and the art of teaching: Transformative learning and teaching in physical education and sport pedagogy. Cagigal Scholar Lecture presented at the AIESEP World Congress, Edinburgh, UK.


Students as consumers or co-producers in outsourced Health and Physical Education? Blog by Dr. Leigh Sperka

Dr Leigh Sperka is an Associate Lecturer in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences at The University of Queensland. Her research focuses on the outsourcing of education. This includes investigating decision-making around the practice, how outsourcing impacts curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, and student perspectives of outsourced lessons. In this blog, she discusses a key finding from a paper presented at the 2018 AIESEP World Congress in Edinburgh. This paper has since been published in the Sport, Education and Society Special Edition ‘Creating thriving and sustainable futures in physical education, health and sport’. The full paper can be accessed here.

Students as consumers or co-producers in outsourced Health and Physical Education?

There has been a growing number of studies about the prevalence of outsourcing in Health and Physical Education (HPE) internationally (see Sperka & Enright, 2018). To date, however, relatively little research has been conducted on students’ experiences in outsourced HPE lessons (Kirk & Colquhoun, 1989; Powell 2015; Tinning & Kirk, 1991). This is concerning not only because students are the primary stakeholders in the educational experience but also because it has been argued that corporate involvement redefines education and repositions students in the educative process (Powell & Gard, 2015). It was therefore necessary to undertake a study that explored students’ positioning in, and perspectives of, outsourced HPE.

Focus groups were conducted with 25 Year Eight students (age 14 years) at an independent co-educational secondary school in Australia that was delivering the ‘Cardio Tennis’ component of Tennis Australia’s Tennis in Secondary Schools Program. Each focus group had either three or four participants and topics for discussion included experiences and learning in HPE in general and in the Cardio Tennis unit specifically. Observations of the Cardio Tennis lessons, which were co-taught by a HPE Teacher and a Tennis Coach, were also completed.

While there was heterogeneity in students’ perspectives on outsourced HPE, we found that the Year Eight students were positioned as ‘active consumers’ but ‘passive learners’ (Ball, 2004) in the Cardio Tennis lessons. They were ‘consumers’ in two distinct ways. Firstly, they were positioned as consumers of education itself. Both the HPE Teacher and the Tennis Coach controlled the enactment of the Cardio Tennis unit, imparting structured and pre-determined knowledge to the students rather than engaging with their voices and encouraging processes of curriculum and assessment negotiation. Secondly, and directly connected to the outsourced nature of the unit, these students were also consumers of the products, services, and philosophies being sold by Tennis Australia. Importantly, many of these students were critical consumers as they were able to recognise the impact that outsourced lessons had on teaching and learning in HPE.

In this paper we advocate for the protection of the educative and socially just intent of the subject through a reconceptualisation of the student as ‘co-producer’ in the educational experience. This would involve more dialogic processes where students’ distinct perspectives are elicited and responded to. In this case, the HPE Teacher was arguably best positioned to interpret, communicate, and bridge the interests of Tennis Australia, the school, and the students.

Overall, this study highlighted how crucial it is to seek out students’ voices and perspectives on outsourced HPE and demonstrated that more research in this area is warranted.


Ball, S. (2004). Education for sale! The Commodification of Everything? Paper presented at the King’s Annual Education Lecture, London.

Kirk, D., & Colquhoun, D. (1989). Healthism and physical education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 10(4), 417-434. doi:10.1080/0142569890100403

Powell, D. (2015). “Part of the solution”?: Charities, corporate philanthropy and healthy lifestyles education in New Zealand primary schools. Charles Sturt University.

Powell, D., & Gard, M. (2015). The governmentality of childhood obesity: Coca-Cola, public health and primary schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(6), 854-867. doi:10.1080/01596306.2014.905045

Sperka, L., & Enright, E. (2018). The outsourcing of health and physical education: A scoping review. European Physical Education Review, 24(3), 349-371. doi:10.1177/1356336×17699430

Tinning, R., & Kirk, D. (1991). Daily physical education: Collected papers on health based physical education in Australia. Geelong, Victoria: Deakin University Press.