Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Advisor

Amanda Devine

Second Advisor

Margaret Miller

Third Advisor

Julie Dare


Establishing and maintaining a healthy diet is integral in promoting optimal health, growth and development. Moreover, the food choices we make and dietary behaviours we adopt are a reflection of the multiple personal, interpersonal and environmental factors to which we are exposed. Consequently, changing food habits and dietary behaviour is complex and requires the implementation of multifaceted public health strategies. Comprehensive nutrition education provided to adolescents during their school years is one such approach.

Adolescence is a period of rapid psychological and physiological changes. At a socioemotional level, there is a decreased level of dependence on parents and a greater influence from peers and the environment. As a consequence, adolescents tend to be exposed to a plethora of well-marketed and advertised unhealthy foods. These changes can lead to the development of unhealthy dietary behaviours. At a cognitive level, however, adolescence is also marked as a time when the brain is malleable and the ability to process information and reason accelerates. During this period, adolescents develop the capability of thinking in abstract terms and simultaneously consider different perspectives towards an idea. Therefore, this stage of life provides a unique opportunity for learning and skill development relating to food and nutrition. Further, delivering nutrition education within the school setting is one of the most effective environments to educate and promote healthy food habits and behaviours.

The aim of this study was to develop a framework demonstrating the interaction between student engagement and effective pedagogy, and how these constructs can be utilised in an adolescent nutrition education context. This framework will enable teachers, curriculum writers and academics to develop food and nutrition lessons for year 7-8 students, which acknowledge student engagement and effective pedagogy as a key focal point.

A generic qualitative research approach was employed and comprised of three sequential phases. The first phase involved an extensive literature review, establishment of a project reference group and qualitative protocol development. The second phase included a series of student focus groups and teacher interviews across six Western Australian non-government schools. Using thematic data analysis, focus group and interview transcripts were analysed which resulted in the development of ten key themes. These data analyses, coupled with literature review findings, informed phase three; the development of a framework that is relevant and practical to an Australian nutrition education context. This framework was then reviewed and refined by the project reference group and led to the finalised Multiliteracies approach, Engagement focused, Adolescent specific Lesson planning (MEAL) framework.

The MEAL framework and its accompanying guidelines and resources provide a valuable addition to the adolescent nutrition education resources available to Australian teachers. It is anticipated the uptake and use of this framework, will provide teachers with the confidence in knowing their planned lessons have been guided by education and public health research. Moreover, through the implementation of the MEAL framework, teachers have the capacity to contribute towards a positive change in how nutrition education is planned and delivered in the schooling environment and contribute to the overall health outcomes of Australian adolescents.


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