Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor Paul Newhouse

Second Advisor

Professor Dawn Penney

Third Advisor

Dr Ken Alexander


In February 2007 a new senior secondary Physical Education Studies (PES) was introduced in Western Australia (WA). The course was one of some 50 new courses that were developed in conjunction with the introduction of a new Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE). Notably, the rationale for PES claimed that the “integration of theory and practice is central to studies in this course” (Curriculum Council of WA [CCWA], 2009, p. 2). Focusing on the initial years of implementation this study explored curriculum change and reform within the Health and Physical Education (HPE) Learning Area and specifically, in the context of PES in Western Australia (WA), to consider the extent to which this significant course intention has been realised.

Accordingly, the study investigated the discourse(s) that formed PES in WA, before using this as a backdrop to examine the notion of integrated theory and practice in “enactment” (Ball, Maguire, Braun, Hoskins, & Perryman, 2012, p. 6). In particular, the study addressed the dynamic relationship between curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, and sought a better understanding of the policy making and course design intentions that formed PES, and the representation, expression and contestation of varied discourse. The study had the ultimate aim of identifying “creative and original” (Ball et al., 2012) practice in the field of senior school physical education (PE), and specifically integrated theory and practice pedagogy.

Literature that locates the study in the context of policy and enactment is reviewed, before attention turns to the field of pedagogical practice in PE as linked to senior secondary school, and in particular Bernstein’s conceptualisation of pedagogic discourse (1990) and Arnold’s (1979) concepts or dimensions, namely ‘in, through and about’ movement.

The study employed a phased approach, investigating three research questions with findings from Phase 1 (research question one) informing and providing a backdrop to Phase 2 (research questions two and three). The methodology for the phased study was informed by Bernstein’s conceptualisation of pedagogic discourse, and specifically the Recontextualising and Secondary Fields, and utilised qualitative research methods, including semi structured interviews, document analysis and a series of case studies in schools.

The research findings from phase one of the study established that the new PES course in WA emerged on the back of significant educational reform that enabled a series of varied overarching discourse(s) pertinent to contemporary debate in the broader education and PE context, both in Australian and Internationally to be advanced. The study then explored how one of these overarching discourses, namely the 'integration of theory and practice' was interpreted and enacted in schools and the factors influencing the various approaches and responses identified. The data highlighted that teachers in the context of PES in WA, broadly interpreted the ‘integration of theory and practice’ in terms similar to Arnold’s conceptualisation. The study generated data that suggests evidence of some, or what might be called “modest” (Brown & Penney, 2013), examples of integrated theory and practice teaching and learning arrangements. These varied considerably and consequently there was little or no sign of established ‘integrated theory and practice’ pedagogy across the schools involved in the study. Accordingly this thesis focuses on examples of these various arrangements.

This study extends understanding of the various discourses impacting “integration”, most notably Arnold’s conceptualisation of learning in/through/about movement, and emphasises the need for more work that engages with the complexities of how curriculum and assessment discourses can be effectively mediated through pedagogical practice. A series of recommendations, which utilise Bernstein’s conceptualisation as a central organiser, are made. These focus on ‘how’ conditions in the recontextualising fields can be arranged to create a curriculum, assessment and pedagogic environment where integrated theory and practice as a centre piece for PES could prosper, and ‘what’ pedagogically can be done to develop practice in this area. The recommendations address curriculum, assessment and pedagogy at multiple levels and while specifically related to the context of PES in WA, are typically pertinent to senior secondary school courses nationally and internationally.


Paper Location