Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Andrew Taggart

Second Advisor

Dr Ken Alexander

Third Advisor

Dr Wally Moroz


This research study provides a 'snap-shot' of the current status of teaching aquatic programmes in Western Australian secondary schools. This study also encapsulates the thoughts and feelings of the teachers and the students engaged in these programmes, scrutinises the outcomes of existing programmes and advances practical recommendations to address the problems identified. The study was conducted within a contemporary context where little innovation in aquatic education has accompanied the Australian and state-wide curriculum development based on outcomes-focused education. The research was underpinned by a conceptual framework which conforms to the principles of constructivist learning (Kirk & Macdonald, 1998; Wittrock, 1978; Woods, 1996) and was viewed through Tomlinson's (1999, 2000, 2001) differentiated classroom and Shulman's'(1986, 1987) pedagogical content knowledge, and articulated through Choi's (1992) curriculum dimensions. The study incorporated empirical/analytic and interpretive research paradigms, collecting data from 33 Teachers in Charge of Health and Physical Education Departments (TiC's), 43 teachers of Health and Physical Education (HPE) swimming, and 1532 students Year 8/9 in both Government and Independent schools. In addition, case study observation and interview data (4 HPE classes) were used in the triangulation of common happenings, issues, perceptions and experiences to provide an in-depth analysis of aquatics in HPE. Teacher data were presented for school sector (Government, Independent) and schools with and without a swimming pool; while student responses for differing year levels, gender, school sector, swimming ability, ethnicity and perceived parental swimming ability comparisons- are offered. Observation and interview data were inductively analysed employing a thematic cross case analysis process. The results indicated that there was a lack of HPE swimming and formalised aquatic award programmes offered in Western Australian secondary schools. At the conclusion of the HPE swimming unit, which was defined by 'stroke technique analysis and correction,' more than 40% of students did not meet the requirements that define a competent swimmer (Ministerial Swimming Review Committee - Report, 1995). Girls and students of ethnic origin were under-represented in the higher swimming categories. On an annual learning continuum, Year 8/9 students appeared to 'tread-water.' Staff/student ratios typically exceeding 1:20 impacted negatively on teacher effectiveness and the student outcomes. Additional issues impacting on programmes included: inadequate time and pool space; varied swimming abilities; students feeling cold; student related personal, interest/readiness, maturation, gender and cultural dynamics, and inadequate teaching resources. School HPE programmes that were required to access a public swimming venue for lessons were disadvantaged from a range of perspectives. This study makes recommendations with the ultimate goal to increase the number of secondary schools offering this curriculum and the number of Western Australian children who are aquatically competent. Findings and conclusions highlight the need for new HPE aquatic policy, differentiated teaching and professional development aimed at meeting students’ readiness and interest levels. Recommendations for further research to consider how contemporary HPE aquatics might be presented to accommodate student needs, to identify and map the aquatic competencies of Western Australian school children, and the minimum aquatic proficiency for students exiting the compulsory HPE years, are offered.

Included in

Education Commons