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NSW Department of Education and Communities

Curriculum support for NSW Public Schools

Using the NSW model of pedagogy as a framework to reflect on PDHPE programs and practice

The Quality teaching in NSW public schools discussion paper and the recently released A classroom practice guide are powerful tools for teachers to use when reflecting on their current programs and practices. They provide a useful framework for critiquing teaching and learning programs and/or to use when designing new units of work.

This article provides some guidelines on using the Quality teaching model as a framework for refining and developing units of work, and in particular, selecting appropriate teaching and learning activities to meet syllabus outcomes. The following table provides some key questions and considerations that PDHPE teachers can reflect on when they begin to work with the NSW model of pedagogy.

Intellectual quality 


Key questions when reflecting on programs and practice

Considerations when reflecting on programs and practice

Deep knowledge

To what extent is the knowledge being addressed focused on a small number of key concepts and ideas and the relationships between and among these concepts?

  • Identify and review students’ prior knowledge as a starting place for addressing deep knowledge.
  • Identify significant concepts in PDHPE by reviewing syllabus outcomes, syllabus learn about and learn to statements.
  • Map outcomes and content during unit planning so that each lesson focuses on illustrating significant concepts and the relationships amongst them.

Deep understanding

To what extent do students demonstrate a profound and meaningful understanding of central ideas and the relationships between and among those central ideas?

  • Plan for sufficient time in a unit for students to demonstrate deep understanding of significant concepts.
  • Provide a range of opportunities for students to demonstrate deep understanding e.g. problem solving in a group, developing or answering probing questions and justifying a point of view on an issue.

Problematic knowledge


To what extent are students encouraged to address multiple perspectives and/or solutions?


To what extent are students able to recognise that knowledge has been constructed and therefore is open to question?


  • Identify and explore the assumptions underpinning a variety of perspectives when presenting a theme or topic e.g. using a class debate to support students to interrogate opposing points of view on a health issue and analyse how each of these points of view have been constructed.
  • Provide opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge e.g. by engaging in problem solving activities such as proposing health promotion strategies to deal with adolescent health issues and exploring the assumptions underpinning the solutions proposed.
  • Provide opportunities for students to develop their critical literacy skills e.g. when using a variety of sources to collect health-related information.

Higher-order thinking

To what extent are students regularly engaged in thinking that requires them to organise, reorganise, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate knowledge and information?

  • Provide opportunities for students to evaluate, manipulate and transform information e.g. developing a new product, movement composition or scenario.
  • Pose questions that can have multiple answers or possibilities and ask students to justify their responses.
  • Plan at least one significant question requiring higher-order thinking in each lesson.


To what extent do lessons explicitly name and analyse knowledge as a specialist language?


To what extent do lessons provide frequent commentary on language use and the various contexts of differing language uses?

  • “Unpack” the specialist language of PDHPE, building on known language and appropriately pacing the introduction of new language and usage. For example, examine the language of gesture in sport e.g. in refereeing sports, investigate the attributes of gestures used, the importance of speed in completing the gesture, and the importance of accuracy of the gesture to create meaning for players.

Substantive communication

To what extent are students regularly engaged in sustained conversations (in oral, written or artistic forms) about the concepts and ideas they are encountering?

  • Teach and model skills and protocols for substantive communication e.g. active listening, turn-taking, open-ended questioning, giving constructive feedback, debating and using body language.
  • Frame questions that facilitate reciprocal interaction, rather than just information recall and error correction e.g. ask students Why do you think that? How did you come to that point of view? How might your response differ if…?

Quality learning environment


Key questions when reflecting on programs and practice

Considerations when reflecting on programs and practice

Explicit quality criteria

To what extent are students provided with explicit criteria for the quality of work they are to produce?


To what extent are those criteria a regular reference point for the development and assessment of student work?

  • Ask the questions: What do I expect students to produce? and How well do I expect them to do it?
  • Provide students with clear criteria that explicitly describe the quality of work expected.
  • Provide opportunities for students to use the criteria to reflect on and refine their work as it develops.
  • Provide annotated exemplars, work samples or models that illustrate high quality student performance-based on the criteria.


To what extent are most students, most of the time, seriously engaged in the lesson?


To what extent do students display sustained interest and attention?

  • Connect learning to what is meaningful and interesting to students e.g. relate the significant ideas and concepts to issues or trends in popular or youth culture such as community drug issues or popular recreational pursuits.
  • Develop activities which will promote student ownership and challenge students through appropriately structured learning activities.
  • Provide opportunities for negotiated roles within groups to enhance inclusion of all students and joint ownership of tasks e.g. WebQuests.

High expectations

To what extent are high expectations of all students communicated?


To what extent is conceptual risk-taking encouraged and rewarded?

  • Ask yourself: What do I want students to do to demonstrate their learning? and How well do I expect them to do it?
  • Refer to the standards articulated in the Stage statements, syllabus outcomes, and learn about and learn to statements.
  • Reflect on and challenge your own assumptions about the capacities of individual students to engage in challenging work.

Social support

To what extent is there strong positive support for learning and mutual respect among teachers and students and others assisting students’ learning?


To what extent is the classroom free of negative personal comment or put-downs?

  • Teach skills in team work, consensus-building, active listening and positive feedback.
  • Use strategies that allow for all students to contribute and collaborate e.g. cooperative learning, think-pair-share and jigsaw activities.
  • Design flexible learning tasks that will allow all students to experience success and celebrate these successes in appropriate ways.

Students’ self-regulation

To what extent do students demonstrate autonomy and initiative so that minimal attention to the disciplining and regulating student behaviour is required?

  • Ensure activities are purposeful and interesting with clear goals that students perceive to be worthwhile.
  • Provide adequate and relevant learning resources which offer students choices in how they complete tasks and the motivation to participate.
  • Provide opportunities for students to participate in self-evaluation of progress and achievement on learning tasks.

Student direction

To what extent do students exercise some direction over the selection of activities related to their learning and the means and manner by which these activities will be done?

  • Incorporate scaffolded choices and multiple pathways within learning activities e.g. logbooks, presentations, performances, reflective journals, portfolios, learning contracts and online products.
  • Negotiate learning tasks and be open to ideas suggested by students for learning activities. Ask students: What could we do to help us understand this? How could we go about learning this? What will we produce as a result of this learning?



Key questions when reflecting on programs and practice

Considerations when reflecting on programs and practice

Background knowledge

To what extent do lessons regularly and explicitly build from students’ background knowledge, in terms of prior school knowledge as well as other aspects of their personal lives?

  • Identify background knowledge by exploring the information and previous experiences students’ bring with them to lessons e.g. generate ideas about a topic through a brainstorm, create mind maps to explore what is already known at the beginning of a topic.
  • Use identified prior knowledge as a starting point for lessons and units of work.
  • Incorporate students’ background knowledge in learning activities through reference to knowledge they have gained from their family, community, previous experience and popular culture.

Cultural knowledge

To what extent do lessons regularly incorporate the cultural knowledge of diverse social groupings (such as economic class, gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality, disability, language and religion)?

  • Explore how learning resources reflect and value diversity and include the practices and protocols of social groups.
  • Provide opportunities for students to look beyond stereotypes used to describe different social groups e.g. stereotypes relating to gender in areas such as sexuality, risk-taking and participation in physical activities.

Knowledge integration

To what extent do lessons regularly demonstrate links between and within subjects and key learning areas?

  • Plan to make explicit connections between topics within PDHPE using themes or problems and issues where they can strengthen the learning of key concepts.
  • Explore PDHPE content links across KLAs and subject areas e.g. links to food technology (nutritional requirements), science (body systems and functions).
  • Collaborate with other faculties to determine cross-curricular links, such as ICTs, gender and key competencies.


To what extent do lessons include and publicly value the participation of all students across the social and cultural backgrounds represented in the classroom?

  • Create opportunities for all students to experience the range of classroom roles in learning activities by using strategies such as home group-expert, think-pair-share, group roles and cooperative learning activities.
  • Reflect on and consider ways of including those students who are passively disengaged in the public work of the class e.g. including popular recreational and cultural activities to engage students in practical lessons in PDHPE.


To what extent do lesson activities rely on the application of school knowledge in real-life contexts or problems?


To what extent do lesson activities provide opportunities for students to share their work with audiences beyond the classroom and school?

  • When possible, select topics or issues that can be more readily applied to contexts outside of school.
  • Link learning to and encourage discussion about current issues in the local community, media and popular culture e.g. using current affairs and “soapies” as stimuli for discussion about adolescent health issues.
  • Incorporate resources beyond the classroom such as the Internet, local community and the media.


To what extent do lessons employ narrative to enrich student understanding?

  • Recognise and use multiple sources of stories such as biographies, documentaries, personal accounts and case studies to enrich learning.
  • Plan a variety of opportunities for students to construct their own stories related to the substance of the lesson/unit e.g. journal writing, diary entries, reflective journals, portfolios, scenarios, movement performances and case studies.


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