Cognitions: What is their place in Year 7-10 HPE?


By Aaron Harding, Board Member
ACHPER Queensland

Education has seen the life cycle of changing emphasis as much as any industry. All experienced HPE teachers have seen these changes, and I’m sure at some stage gone through a somewhat cynical mindset about how the change will not last. However, like true professionals, those who have lasted to become experienced practitioners have adapted their teaching style, pedagogical approach and programme writing for both performance settings and time spent inside the classroom.

In Queensland, there has never been a stronger focus on cognitions, in particular the cognitive verbs Explain, Analyse, Justify and Evaluate. All school are currently finding the mix between the delivery of the Australian Curriculum content, the time allocated to them to do so, and the inevitable need have students ready for Year 11 and 12 studies that rely on the aforementioned Cognitive Verbs.

So, I pose a somewhat long question:

How can teachers of Health and Physical Education ensure that they maximise the time they have within their school setting to develop their students physically while also ensuring they are able to explain this learning, and in turn analyse, evaluate and justify what they experience?

Some would say this is unrealistic and in fact impossible. I often hear teachers start to chip away at the fabric of a collegial environment within their school by stating that other areas of the school should have their students’ skills in literacy, analytical processes, numeracy or ultimately any other skill that underpins academic success.

I believe this blame game needs to stop for the good of our subject both in Year 7-10 and in turn our results and outcomes in Year 11 and 12 offerings within the PE suite. HPE teachers, and in a lot of cases leaders within our school environments, have the most engaging subject to achieve true teaching. We need to remove this blame and negative thought process and take it upon ourselves to teach cognitions every day in performance and classrooms settings and truly impact the futures of our students across their journey as a learner.

I can hear those reading saying, “How can this be achieved”. Below I present 2 ways that I have seen through our re-developed Year 7-9 HPE programme at Anglican Church Grammar School that may assist teachers around the state:

1. Change the language and standard academic rigour in the subject

To have students value the difference between explaining a concept, analysing through physical activity, then evaluating the outcomes and justifying why this has occurred, they must hear this language and understand what each cognition means. Below are some ways this can be done:

  • Teachers commit to explaining the core content explicitly, then providing an environment where students are constantly challenged to either analyse, evaluate or justify what is occurring.
  • Using the QCAA Cognitive verb toolkit posters and printing / placing them in rooms or online within school class pages or portals.
  • Setting small homework tasks that link the HPE curriculum outcomes to one or multiple of the cognitions that they must be elite at to succeed across their senior subjects (particular the afore mentioned PE specific ones).
  • Having students that are sick, injured or for whatever reason unable to participate in HPE lessons performing one or more of these cognitions in writing whilst the class is occurring.

    The above can be achieved without taking the fun our of the subject, it is all in the delivery and putting students in situations where they can tangibly see their improvement through the above points in action.

2. Build resources that promote cognitive processes to support lessons

Through a focus on developing students when they are both fit and healthy, as well when they are not, the following are ways to make the most of each minute to achieve the mix of activity time, delivery of investigating content outcomes, as well as build the ability for students to meaningfully learn and apply cognitions in HPE whether they are injured or actively participating:

  • Non-Participation Cognition based task sheets. At Churchie, these are used in all Year 7-9 lessons to both have a meaningful experience whilst not participating, as well as developing the ability to analyse, explain, evaluate and justify content and learning occurring in the lesson.
  • Long Term Injury Booklets. Cognition based tasks within a bigger workbook is a way to engage students. At Churchie, we use these for students who are out longer than 4 weeks and these are a meaningful way of student engaging in the lessons and ensure those that have the disappointment of missing practical performance can still develop as a learner.

Many times, the ‘time poor’, or ‘that is someone else’s job’ approach creeps in as downward pressure for student achievement comes into play and our allocated time for HPE is diminishes. We need to keep believing our subject is a great vehicle for academic success. To help our Year 11 and 12 cohort of truly capable students who can succeed in a QCE Physical Education pathway, I believe we as a HPE teaching fraternity in this state need to remember these 3 key messages:

  • We have the most engaging subject to effect student learning habits
  • Cognitive verbs inaction daily in HPE lessons in Year 7-10 can change a student’s whole academic future
  • We must continue to be positive about our subject’s value and develop resources to formalize this in the eyes of school and state-wide administrators

We all have a responsibility for the way our subject scales in regard to a QCE result, and this process starts with better embedding of cognitions into our Year 7-10 programmes.

For assistance or examples of this in action or resource sharing, please don’t hesitate to contact me as both one of your ACHPER QLD Board Members and also a fellow teacher. I would welcome a chat or email to give further context to approach on embedding cognitions into Year 7-10 HPE lessons.

All the best with the run home to the end of what has been a big 2022 year for HPE teachers. 

Aaron Harding
Head of Department – Health & Physical Education
Director of Basketball
Anglican Church Grammar School
[email protected]