Physical Literacy 104 – Pedagogy for Physical Literacy

23rd December 2018 by Helen Parker
Physical Literacy 104 – Pedagogy for Physical Literacy
Physical Literacy 104 – Pedagogy for Physical Literacy


In this last blog on the topic of physical literacy I pick up the final point from my last instalment. That “PE and sport are physical activity contexts within which the behaviours of PL MAY be learned, IF the pedagogy and coaching methods are also adapted to facilitate learning of the desired, broader outcomes beyond physical skills and fitness.” My point is that pedagogy and teaching methods are critical to whether broader, desired capabilities are achieved by students. A concentration on skills and drills, demonstrate and replicate, command-style teaching will fail to foster broader psychological, social and cognitive capabilities.



The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) defines physical literacy as “the integration of physical, psychological, cognitive and social capabilities that help us live active, healthy and fulfilling lifestyles”. Thus, PL is conceived as a multidimensional, holistic concept, focusing on whole-person development across these behaviour domains. The ASC’s interest in this new concept began in 2016, culminating in a detailed set of background papers, draft performance standards and a developmental framework in 2017. See ASC Physical Literacy

Read the first 3 blogs in the series: Physical Literacy 101 – A Primer,  Physical Literacy 102 – the ASC framework, and Physical Literacy 103 – the sport focus.

HPE Curricula Capabilities

Fostering physical literacy is certainly worthwhile. The new Australian curriculum in HPE (and State variants) emphasised new, broader learnings and general capabilities necessary to equip children with skills, knowledge and attitudes for successful, healthy, productive and engaged citizens of the 21st century.
To remind you – The Rational of the WA K-10 HPE curriculum states “Through Health and Physical Education, students learn how to enhance their health, safety and wellbeing and to contribute to building healthy, safe and active communities. It provides opportunities for students to develop skills, self-efficacy and dispositions to advocate for, and positively influence, their own and others’ health and wellbeing. The Health and Physical Education curriculum teaches students how to be part of a healthy, active population and experience the personal and social benefits of living a healthy, active and fulfilling life”.

You can see the alignment between these broader capabilities and the concept of PL, although that label is not used anywhere in the curriculum. Central to this contemporary HPE curriculum is the embedding of the Five Propositions into HPE pedagogy. A blog discussion of these was recently posted. It described the work of Monash University researchers Lambert, O’Connor, Penney and Alfrey (2017) in de-mystifying each proposition for teachers by providing reflective questions of our practice. I want to highlight these as being pivotal to achieving worthwhile, meaningful outcomes, aka. physical literacy, for students.


What role does each proposition have in our pedagogy and how it fosters PL?
  1. Educative purposes – Is there a better approach for this learning activity – practice, create, synthesis, apply and evaluate knowledge, understandings and skills? In Mosston’s spectrum of teaching styles, which could best be suited, viz. reproducing knowledge (teacher led) or producing knowledge (student led)?
  2. Strength-based approach – What personal resources and strengths do students already have? How can you foster student insight into their unique strengths, even when not obvious? How to design empowering, enabling learning activities and assessments?
  3. Value movement – Is a there a positive orientation to the movement culture through activity choices provided? Improving personal capability in confidence and competence?
  4. Health literacy – Peripheral to PL, but what learning activities develop understanding, knowledge and skills regarding health information and health services. Fostering health advocacy, positive health choices in learning and assessment activities. Lastly,
  5. Critical inquiry approach – Do learning activities require analysis of factors affecting involvement, achievement, choices or constraints on healthy choices, or physical activity? Are assumptions challenged? Decision making – seeking facts, new questions and ideas, problem solving.

Therefore, PL is highly likely to emerge in classrooms where these propositions are understood and implemented in teaching practice. Effective HPE teachers already embed these propositions into pedagogy; all children’s PL will progress. However, such pedagogical understanding is not readily available for parent and community coaches with current coaching courses not yet re-framed around PL. Community volunteer coaches are unlikely to apply anything like these processes to planning and conducting their sessions. That is entirely understandable. However, if PL is to be embraced in community coaching, as the ASC urges, then the typical method of demonstrate-drill-practice in coaching children and youth will need to be overhauled.


Take home message: I feel that if we embrace the new curriculum, and really challenge ourselves to use pedagogies relevant for the students, the context, and the content then we can boldly boast that PL is in our good hands.


So, if you are challenged to show you are teaching physical literacy or are challenged to re-label your learning area as physical literacy you can loudly proclaim that PL is not a subject to learn – health and physical education is. PL is the holistic development of knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions for active and safe participation and choices for healthy living, an outcome of the comprehensive, systematic learning in the physical domain. Discussion about PL is an opportunity to advocate for and sell our learning area.

By Helen Parker




Mosston, M. & Ashworth, S. (2002). Teaching physical education (5th ed.). Glenview, IL: Pearson Education

SCSA, Rationale K-10 HPE Curriculum.