Engagement In PE

1st June 2019 by Gavin Brown
Engagement In PE

When we talk about engaging students in PE (or any subject), we have to change our way of thinking from “why aren’t my students more engaged” to “how can I make my instruction more engaging.” 

The research tells us that “It is a redesign of environments, not a redesign of individuals that will make a difference to school wide behaviour and engagement” (Sugai, 2005). We can’t make students learn or behave but we can create environments that increase the likelihood that students will learn and behave.

Who is in charge of creating those environments? We are. The teachers. So we should be asking ourselves…

am I setting my students up for success or failure by the classroom environment my students walk into?

The Grattan Institute Report 2017 on Engaging Students and creating classrooms that improve learning, highlighted a number of common approaches. They identified that successful classrooms were characterised by having:

  • Preventative Strategies: High Expectations, Strong teacher-student relationships, Clarity and structure in instruction, Active Learning.
  • Responsive Strategies: Encouragement and Praise, Consistent corrections and consequences.

So what does this mean for the PE teacher?

High Expectations:

Instil in every student an expectation of success, scaffold lessons to meet the needs of the students so that every student can experience success and competence which lifts self esteem and confidence.

Strong Teacher-Student Relationships:

Use Winning Over strategies, take personal interest. Teachers with good relationships with their students can more effectively intervene when problems arise.

Clarity and structure in Instruction:

Be clear and consistent about what students are expected to do as well as explicitly teaching both behaviour and academic desired outcomes. Never assume students know what is expected.

Active Learning:

Student participation in their learning, allowing them to speak, work collaboratively and problem solve will encourage them to engage and be involved in their learning.

Encouragement and Praise:

Acknowledging student performance reinforces what a successful student looks like and creates a positive classroom environment.

Corrections and Consequences:

Corrections can reduce the prospect of behaviour disruptions and disengagement. Teacher use of LKS can keep students on task and engaged. If consequences are necessary they should always have a clear learning purpose and should involve teaching the replacement behaviour required.


By embedding these strategies into our planning we can go long way to creating those environments where students are more likely to be successful both academically and behaviourally.

Gavin Brown
Teacher Behaviour
School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement
Department of Education WA