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Designing approaches to enhance practice

Designing approaches to enhance practice

Any review that aims to change mindsets and practices in a school setting must address barriers to change. Teachers need to see the value in new approaches and have time and support to explore and trial new ideas.  

Working through barriers and putting foundations in place  

The main barriers to changing practices in schools to do with physical activity and physical education are most commonly competing PLD priorities, staff turnover, and teacher confidence. To ensure success at working through these and other barriers:   

  • make sure the principal is a key champion who is involved in setting directions and allocating resources 
  • offer leadership roles to champion teachers who could mentor their peers 
  • set up whole school PLD and collaborative planning processes 
  • complete activities that offer quick successes and engage teachers in new ideas 
  • get everyone onboard with key messages that resonate with teachers 
  • set up systems that address common challenges such as high staff turnover. 

Table 1 summarises the enablers that assisted change in schools.

Summarises the enablers that assisted change in schools
Factor  Change is enabled when  
School leaders understand the reasons for reviewing PE and physical activity and what quality PE looks like  School leaders are clear about how reviewing PE and physical activity practice can help address student needs and foster teacher capability, curriculum integration, and the holistic development of students 
School leaders and teachers are clear about how reviewing approaches to PE and physical activity can support other school goals  

Schools can see how reviewing PE and physical activity supports other school PLD focuses, including: 

  • Kāhui Ako or school goals about student wellbeing or culturally responsive practice  
  • local curriculum development and integrated planning 
  • Building capabilities in te reo Māori 
  • play-based learning 
  • initiatives such as PB4L School-wide 
School leaders act as key champions 

School leaders actively support and champion the review process through actions such as: 

  • taking part in whole staff sessions 
  • allocating resources 
  • changing staffing or structures to better support teachers (e.g., setting up each syndicate with a teacher who could mentor their peers)  
Key messages are clearly communicated   School leaders clearly communicate key ideas and messages about shifts in practice to teachers  
School leaders build confidence by making sure all teachers can access PLD and support
  • School leaders make sure the school does not have too many competing PLD priorities and give teachers at least 2 or 3 years to develop and trial approaches 
  • Schools have a plan that ensures all teachers receive individual or syndicate-level PLD 
  • Staff who need support are targeted (e.g., new staff or beginning teachers) 
  • PLD and support are planned well in advance  
  • Schools use existing PLD structures and times to offer support 
New school leaders and staff are inducted into new approaches 
  • New school leaders are inducted into approaches by staff at their school or peers at other schools 
  • There is a process for mentoring or buddying up new staff  
Teachers have access to PLD and external support 
  • Schools have planned and regular access to external PLD providers  
Teachers and school leaders learn from other schools

A range of teachers and school leaders attend external PLD that offers:  

  • access to new ideas and recent research  
  • opportunities to hear and talk to peers from other schools as they share practice
Schools use collaborative planning processes  Schools have a team approach to Health and PE or integrated curriculum planning that provides support and a planning structure, but also opportunities for teacher ownership 
Teachers can access appropriate equipment, resources, or spaces 


  • have sets of adapted equipment that can be used for different purposes  
  • know about the local spaces and places or physical activity resources they can access 
  • are supported to rethink how to use existing equipment (e.g., gym equipment) 
  • have access to online resources they can use or adapt

The following provide some lessons learned during the pilot about how to create change. 

Building teacher confidence and shifting mindsets 

Many school leaders considered teacher confidence was a major or minor barrier to embedding new approaches to PE. In the Health and PE space several processes or activities quickly engaged staff and built confidence, including:  

  • needs-based planning processes that support teachers to assess student needs and build these into Health and PE planning. Some schools did playground observations to identify competencies students could build through Health and PE, such as the communication skills needed to work through disagreements or ways to include peers who were left out. Other schools wove their focus learner dispositions into planning. 
  • curriculum workshops or planning support that assists teachers to unpack the Health and PE learning area. Key focuses include:  
  • exploring the four underlying concepts of Health and PE, especially hauora  
  • developing PE plans that included all four strands of Health and PE   
  • mentoring or team teaching from lead teachers or PLD providers that assists teachers to challenge their views and make a mindset shift about quality PE 
  • access to PLD providers who act as critical friends and support schools to rethink their relationship with external providers in PE time, or how to make traditional events such as the annual cross country or athletics days more inclusive 
  • opportunities to go to workshops or conferences and hear practical examples of how other teachers are evolving their practice.  

The content that most engaged staff included examples of:  

  • how hauora and te whare tapa whā could be used to think holistically about student wellbeing and learning, or as a reflective tool for students to use  
  • how a focus on students’ cultures could be incorporated into PE such as via Māori and Pacific games and movement 
  • practices that fostered inclusion, e.g., how to engage a wider range of students in PE through reflection and student input into designing rules or games 
  • active and fun activities that addressed the above areas or which teachers could quickly do in a classroom to get students moving and thinking. 

Hauora is a key underlying concept of Health and PE 

Seeing how their peers used te whare tapa whā model of hauora/wellbeing* as a planning and reflection tool was a game changer for many teachers. During PLD sessions they valued being able to explore this model and the other underlying concepts of the Health and PE curriculum. 

Diagram for mental, social, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing

*Image and text from page 31 of the 1999 Health and PE curriculum: 

Change is assisted by school leader buy-in and clear messages  

The active support of school leaders is a core aspect of successful PLD which influences student outcomes (Robinson et al., 2009). School leaders’ actions make a key difference to the pace of change in schools. schools spread new practices more widely across teachers when they had a member of the senior leadership team who championed, made strategic decisions about PLD and the location of lead teachers, and attended PLD sessions.  

Spread of practice was assisted by clear messaging and collaborative planning processes. Story 1 shows how one school leader had distilled key ideas about quality PE practice into some clear messages for teachers and provided teachers with support to plan. 

Story 1: Getting everyone onboard
  • With collaborative planning and clear messages

    At one school prior to, PE had mostly been handed over to Kiwisport providers, leaving many teachers unconfident to plan or run PE sessions. PE content was structured around inter-school sports events.  Four main changes helped the school build staff confidence and get everyone on board with teaching PE.  

    1. PLD for staff: Support from PLD mentors was spread across all syndicates and assisted teachers to work collaboratively to unpack the Health and PE learning area and explore all the strands. 
    2. Refocusing the content of PE so it was not about training for sports events: The focus of PE was shifted so that it built students’ capabilities across a range of areas identified in the four Health and PE strands. School leaders noted sport was still important to the school, but practices and training now happened at lunchtime or after school. 
    3. A shift to collaborative and needs-based planning: Playground observations were used to identify needs such as teamwork or cooperative behaviours. Planning is done each term during a full staff meeting. Teachers design ways students can develop the identified attributes as they play, modify, and reflect on games. 
    4. Sharing consistent messages: To ensure teachers have a clear idea about what good practice looked like and did not look like the school developed a few key messages about PE which included: 
    • less focus on the movement strand—more focus on the other strands and achievement objectives 
    • less focus on traditional sports and games—more focus on variety and fun 
    • less standing around in long lines—more focus on everyone joining in and feeling included 
    • less teacher direction—more focus on independence and opportunities for students to design or change activities. 

    We also did whole staff meetings about the key changes. This year we included all staff in planning. We went in with the question: ‘These are our AOs [achievement objectives], so what will our learning intentions and lessons look like?’ Teachers have had more ownership about what PE looks like this year, and obviously, so have the students. We try to have one staff meeting per term on PE, which usually leads to what will be happening in the next term.

    (School leader)

    The staff we talked to told us these key messages had focused their planning. They could also see other teachers’ understandings of the messages were growing over time.

    We were clear about what to change. Our school leader was focused on inclusion and moving away from having kids wait in long lines—that was a clear expectation. We’re not 100% there, but we’re a lot further down the track.


For further insights into the value of collaborative practice, and how it enhances learning not only for tamariki and rangatahi but for teachers, parents and the wider community too, you can listen to the ‘More than Sport’ podcast #4 ‘Collaboration to improve outcomes’. 

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