The missing something...where is the socio-critical in pre-service health and physical education teachers’ talk about their practice?

Year: 2013

Author: O'Flynn, Gabrielle, Wright, Jan, Welch, Rosie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In the most recent iterations of the Australian and the New Zealand Health and Physical Education curricula, and to some extent in the draft Australian Curriculum: HPE, a socio-critical approach has been named as a key characteristic. Its presence in practice has however been far more tenuous. In this paper we attempt to understand this tenuous position through interrogating data collected as part of a research project investigating HPE preservice teachers’ meanings and teaching experiences of Health Education in schools. Thirteen students were interviewed in focus groups (2-4 students per group) about their understandings of: (i) the purpose of HE; (ii) the practice of HE; and (iii) the place and form of HE in the schools in which they had recently completed their final teaching internship. In the paper, we use transcripts from the preservice teachers to provide a context for considering why the socially critical seems so unthinkable, unknowable and impractical in Health Education. Most of the students we interviewed took their role as health educators very seriously. They strived to make HE ‘engaging’, ‘sensitive’ and ‘relevant’ to the diverse young people they encountered in their classrooms – all popular tenets of ‘quality’ health education. Their priorities lay in engaging students through up to date resources and in using technology to assist pupils in acquiring health knowledge in order to make healthy decisions. We argue that these priorities and the challenges of realizing them left little room (space or time) for considering health knowledge as contested or for thinking beyond an individualized view of health.