Who is knocking on the door?: A Critical Discourse Analysis of an External Provider in Health and Physical Education

Year: 2015

Author: Sperka, Ligh, Enright, Eimear, MacDonald, Doune, McCuaig, Louise

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There has been a recent proliferation of external agencies knocking on the door of, and being welcomed into, Health and Physical Education (HPE), opening HPE up to new products, partners, and services. The nature and extent of this outsourcing practice or external provision of HPE, what this means for the academic rigour and tradition of the subject, the role of HPE teachers, and the experiences of students is, however, under researched. There is also a dearth of research on if and how, external providers shape their products and services in line with HPE school curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.

Through a critical discourse analysis of Tennis Australia’s Tennis in Secondary School (TSS) Program teacher resources and interviews, this paper explores the relationship between one external provider’s products and services and HPE curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.

A web-audit generated a list of Australian external agencies that offered HPE focused products and services. The criteria for TSS case study selection was: the utilisation of educational language within product descriptions or marketing, provision of services to a significant number of schools, and a rationale for services that included a contribution to HPE. A critical discourse analysis was then undertaken on the TSS advertising, product materials, teacher resources, and the transcripts of semi-structured interviews conducted with three employees of the organisation.

TSS explicitly aligns their products and services with the Australian Curriculum: HPE (AC: HPE). For example, teacher resources are structured to include a “Learning Intention” (i.e. a curriculum content descriptor); “Focus Questions and Teaching Points” (i.e. pedagogical styles); and “Success Criteria (i.e. self-described “assessment criteria”). Significantly, however, the curriculum discourse analysis suggested some tensions between the external providers’ interpretations of the propositions underpinning the AC: HPE, and the intentions of the curriculum writers.

External agencies, such as TSS, are becoming increasingly sophisticated at constructing and marketing their products in relation to HPE curricula. Further work is necessary to understand how this is shaping what HPE looks like in Australian schools.