Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Christine Cunningham

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Tony Fetherston

Third Advisor

Dr Ken Alexander

Abstract

Australian health data indicates that childhood is a significant time for young Australians to develop health and well-being issues. Concurrently, health advocates herald in-school delivery of skills-based participatory health education as making significant contributions to developing behaviour change and supporting health enhancing dispositions in children and young people. In Western Australia (WA), skillsbased participatory health education is characterised by linking knowledge and understandings of what it means to be safer, healthier and more physically active to skills that action these states. Skills-based is a preferred approach to teaching and learning in the Health and Physical Education Learning Area (HPE LA), and at the time of this research was supported through education legislated in The Curriculum Framework (Western Australia Curriculum Council, 1998).

The focus of this research was to investigate the representation and delivery of health education as a separately timetabled, discipline-based subject belonging to the HPE LA, specifically in lower secondary government schools in WA. The literature identified quantity and quality as criteria for health education to develop healthy living; therefore, this research sought to identify the factors that affect the delivery of skills-based, participatory health education in these schools. The aim of this research was to identify whether the current delivery of health education in lower secondary government schools supports the capacity of the HPE LA to promote healthy citizenry in young Western Australians.

A mixed methods methodology was selected. Quantitative data was collected from 75 teachers who participated in an online and paper survey, and qualitative data from nine teachers who participated in semi-structured interviews. Analysis of quantitative data aimed to determine the extent to which government schools in WA were timetabling lower secondary health education as a separate subject. Additionally, this analysis aimed to identify the qualifications and main learning area of the teachers delivering health education. Analysis of the qualitative data aimed to determine the opinions of the teachers regarding delivery. Representation and delivery were determined by the amount of HPE LA curriculum time allocated to health education, the qualifications and training of the teachers delivering the subject and the preferred pedagogical approach used to deliver health education content.

This research found that curriculum time attributed to health education in the government schools studied has decreased since 1995. Significantly, curriculum time allowed for health education varied across schools. However, for most schools, health education was delivered for approximately one hour per timetable cycle. This represented only one third of the HPE LA curriculum time. Additionally, half of the teachers who participated in this research and were timetabled to deliver health education were untrained in health education pedagogy. Significantly, one in three of the qualified HPE LA teachers who participated in this research and who delivered health education were untrained in health education pedagogy, although this learning area was mandated in 1998.

The qualitative data demonstrated that participating teachers considered untrained teachers delivering health education as concerning. Specifically, participants were most concerned about teachers whose main learning area was not the HPE LA delivering health education, and teachers who were HPE LA teachers but also untrained. The participants were concerned that these teachers were not delivering health education using the preferred pedagogical approach, so consequently overlooked skills development as a critical component of health citizenry.

This research developed four suggestions for lower secondary government schools, with the aim of supporting the capacity of the curriculum space of the HPE LA in WA to effect safer, healthier and more active citizenry. This research developed two considerations for the universities in WA that prepare pre-service teachers. These considerations aim to prepare pre-service teachers with understandings of skills-based participatory health education and the significance of its contributions to developing health citizenry in WA. This research is significant, as it found the current representation and delivery of the HPE LA in lower secondary government schools does not support the curriculum’s capacity to promote healthy citizenry in young Western Australians.

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