Effective practice in physical education

Explore aspects of effective practice in PE including questioning, use of ICT and personal philosophy on teaching and learning.

What is effective practice?

Reflect on your personal philosophy of teaching physical education and your current practice.

  • What do you think students should learn and why?
  • How would you instruct in a way to promote that kind of learning?
  • Is our influence and practice any more noteworthy now than a decade ago?
  • What are the signs that students are learning in your physical education lessons?
  • What impacts of enables the learning during these lessons?

Create opportunities to support students to learn in, about and through movement and physical activity within quality physical education lessons.

In physical education we want our students to:

  • Develop physical literacy and display developmentally appropriate progression in confidence, competence, knowledge and understanding
  • display physical competence, moving efficiently and effectively, and the ability to transfer and adapt their skills to suit a range of physical activity environments
  • display the cognitive understanding, and social and emotional skills they need to lead a physically active life
  • demonstrate capability to engage in PE on different levels and adopt different roles
  • display a positive attitude towards engagement within PE and demonstrate an understanding of the benefits of adopting and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle and the skills to do so
  • demonstrate prosocial behaviour, celebrate each other’s varying contributions, as well as appreciate the demands and benefits of persistence, cooperation and teamwork.

Practical application and student centred learning approaches such as problem-based learning encourage students to be self-directed, independent and interdependent learners motivated to solve problems. In physical education this often involves putting students into a situation and supporting them as they come up with a solution that enables them to be successful. Questioning techniques will guide students in their search for a solution.

Access the pedagogy section of the website to learn more about the range of instructional models that can be used for effective physical education and tools to evaluate practice.


Questioning is an essential tool for student learning and assessment in physical education. The link between the brain (thinking and understanding) and the body (movement competence) is crucial for development of understanding and skill.

Use questioning to improve how your students learn, develop their thinking processes and their understanding. Responses to questions need not always be verbal but rather students can respond using movement, performing an action or technique. Responding through movement can support students to develop an awareness of their body and movement performance.

Some students find it difficult to respond to questions verbally and therefore movement based responses allow them to demonstrate their understanding in another way.

By creating independent learners in physical education and across physical activity contexts, you will develop students’ abilities to solve problems and make decisions in games, activities and sports.

Benefits of questioning

Questioning is most effective when you understand what you are trying to achieve. This might be to improve student’s performance, game or tactical understanding or their understanding of the skill, the activity, their role or the instruction.

Questioning, when used well, in PE:

  • involves all students and engages students in thinking for themselves
  • supports student centred learning approaches
  • creates and develops independence and ownership of learning
  • improves problem solving and decision making
  • improves recall and transfer across physical activity situations
  • raises self awareness and improves physical competence
  • increases motivation and supports mastery orientation
  • gives the teacher immediate feedback on students’ understanding, which they can then use to modify teaching
  • reinforces and revisits learning objectives and shows connections between previous and new learning
  • encourages students to listen and respond to each other
  • creates an atmosphere of trust where students’ opinions and ideas are valued and where teacher praise can be connected directly to their responses.

Types of questions

Questions can be:

  • Open - Involve problem solving, reflection and decision making. Require higher level thinking processes. Challenge students to apply and analyse information and create knowledge.
  • Closed - Limited to recall or a choice between two options. Require lower level thinking processes. Used to test existing knowledge rather than create it.

Focus on using open questions when you are trying to develop your student’s skills, as they require students to search for solutions and examine what they already know. They will also help students to come up with solutions that are suitable to them, and may include some that you would not have thought of yourself.

  • Recall - These questions are used to help students to remember something that they have learnt previously and are useful for prompting a student prior to completing a task. For example, “how do you position your body to strike the object in that direction?”). They are also used to encourage students to think about a similar situation to help students make connections to previously learnt technique or skill and its application in a new situation.

Have a clear purpose for asking recall questions, such as checking that students have remembered something important, or directing their attention to something they need.

  • Past, Present or Future – Questions can be used to assist students to understand what has happened in an activity (the past), what is currently happening and what can be done (the present) or what may happen as a result of an action (the future).

By thinking about what is happening and why, students develop an understanding of the situation or context and plan for action. This type of questioning can support students to recognise the link between effort and progression or action and success. This information can then be called on in future situations to repeat actions, change actions or transfer learning to a different situation or context.

Integrating technology into PE

Use technology as a tool to support learning, movement performance, assessment or feedback. Technology integration can offer a wide range of opportunities for both teachers and students in physical education.

Be clear on the purpose and learning intentions of a lesson or unit before using technology in your PE classroom. Decide whether the use of technology will enhance your student’s learning and lesson or unit objectives.

Effective teaching and your role facilitating learning is crucial. An ineffective lesson is often not improved through the integration of technology. Just because there is an app for it, doesn’t mean it is better.

A number of teachers are using technology in PE and sharing their experiences. Learn from others and share your own experiences to enhance practice in the Physical Education world.

For more information, check out:

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