PE ALERT – How Can I Advocate for Changing Physical Activity Habits? Padraic Rocliffe

Recently, I stumbled upon a breath-taking blog by a teacher in the field; Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach called Educator as Change Agentthat questions the change agent in you. I, like many other students came from a physical education background whereby a large proportion of teachers never instilled the true value of physical activity to the student’s week by week, month by month, year by year. Therefore, when the time came to graduate, these values, or lack thereof, with regards to physical education were now instilled in us, the students, and so the cycle continues. I merely remember one such class when our physical education teacher informed us that we would be utilizing the class as a study periodas it had no significance in our future careers. So, imagine if such teachers became change agents, as Nussbaum suggests? Can we as future educators become change agents? The aforementioned blog has caused me to consider my role as a change agent, and how I can advocate for changing physical activity habits.

As pre-service teachers, it is our duty to lead the line in advocating for change in physical activity habits, ultimately breaking the cycle of traditional ‘one size fits all’, ineffective teaching methods, that tarnish our industry to the core. As future educators, we must: ensure to consistently implement curriculum models that promote inclusion, incorporate meaningful practice to enhance self-efficacy and motivation to be physically active, as well as ensuring learning is student centered with an emphasis on relevant adolescent culture such as technology (Kirk, D., 2013).   Evidence suggests that successfully incorporating these three variables in a curriculum such as physical education, will aid with advocating for changing physical activity habits in our students. For the purpose of this blog I will focus on meaningful practice.

It is paramount that we as pre-service teachers explicitly attach meaning to physical activity. Ntoumanism, explain its importance as in order to act as a change agent for physical activity it is imperative that we first understand what students regard as “a valuable, enjoyable, rewarding experience or as a worthless, boring, humiliating one” (Ntoumanis, 2001). Equipped with this invaluable information will allow teachers to successfully implement worthwhile, fun, meaningful curricula that enhances self-efficacy and motivation to be physically active. However, teachers must now deliver this meaningful curricula in a manner that motivates the students. According to Penney and Chandler (2010), in order to achieve this, comprehensive support structures and teachers with a high skill level need to be in place, which will ultimately change students perception of physical education and advocate for changing physical activity habits. So, the question is are the NCCA and PDST doing enough to support teachers in maintaining interest in a subject which has so much potential? With the new junior cycle short course syllabus and senior cycle physical education programme being enrolled across the country it is vital to maintain collaboration between the various support structures in order to adequately equip teachers in incorporating meaningful practice in their classes and become that change agent.


Ireland’s primary schools spend less time in Physical Education classes than those of any other European member state, as reported by the European Union’s education information network, Eurydice. However, I believe by incorporating meaningful practice, that enhances self-efficacy and the motivation to be physically active, we can advocate for changing physical activity habits long into the future. I believe many of us have already begun to represent ourselves as change agents throughout our engagement in the teacher education programme in physical education by implementing curriculum models that promote both inclusion and student centered classes, as well as the application of meaningful practice. However, the question remains; can we earn and maintain the status as change agents, advocating for change in physical activity habits throughout our ENTIRE career? Can we learn as fast as the world is changing? Can You?


  • Beach Nussbaum, S. (2010). Educator As Change Agent. Available: Last accessed 27th Feb 2019.
  • Kirk, D. (2013). What is the future for physical education in the twenty-first century? In: Chapel, S., Whitehead, M. Debates in Physical Education. Oxford: Routledge, p220-231.
  • Ntoumanis, N. (2001). A self-determination approach to the understanding of motivation in physical education. British Journal of Educational Psychology. 71 (1), p225-242.
  • Penney, D. & Chandler, T. (2010). Physical Education: What Future(s)? Sport, Education and Society. 5 (1), p72-76.
  • Reilly, G. (2013). Ireland bottom of European table for PE time in primary schools. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Yelon’s explanation of this has been buried away in Yelon, S. L. (1996). Powerful principles of instruction. White Plains, NY: Longman.


Padraic Rocliffe is a PhD student in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. His research examines the impact of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport in schools on Health, Wellbeing and Physical Activity Behaviour in 6-17 year olds.  He is the founder of ‘Shine a Light’ in aid of the homeless and head coach of the University of Limerick Swim Team.  Contact Padraic at or

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