A Teacher’s Reflection on the Implementation of the Physical Education 2019 General Syllabus 


By Dan Michael, Board Member
ACHPER Queensland

Now in its third year of summative assessment, the QCE system has demanded some change in practice for teachers of students in years 11 and 12 and has had a ‘trickle-down’ effect into year 10 and below, in terms of how teachers approach teaching and learning. The General Physical Education syllabus is no exception.

The changes to subject matter alone, with the introduction of Tactical Awareness and Ethics and Integrity topics, both in the summative assessment space has required many experienced PE teachers to explore new and interesting topics with their students. Not surprisingly, the most significant change to the subject, and for some, the most controversial, is in the way physical performance assessment contributes to student outcomes.


The days when students’ performance in selected physical activities could contribute significantly (50%) to their final results in PE are behind us, and for good reason. The push towards assessment with educative purpose in a general syllabus subject has, in some part to do with the more robust quality assurance processes developed by the QCAA as part of the new QCE system. However, this change is mostly due to the simple fact that there is not a university in Australia, that is going to offer a student a placement because that student happens to play touch football at an elite level, and there-in lies the educative purpose. Physical Education is a subject developed primarily for students interested in further education and tertiary studies in a range of fields, including but not limited to exercise science, biomechanics, the allied health professions, teaching and sport journalism. With a reduction in the number of students selecting Physical Education across the state, largely due to the myth that they will experience less physical activity, perhaps that is not such a bad thing, and perhaps, as teachers, we should be focusing on attracting the right students to our subject, rather than attracting as many students as possible.

With a revision of the Physical Education syllabus in the works, teachers may need to prepare themselves for a further reduction to direct assessment of physical performance. As drafts of the revised syllabus make their way to teachers for consultation, it is important for teachers to recognise and understand the difference between assessment of physical activity, and physical activity as a context for learning. As an advocate for not assessing physical performance in PE, I believe that regular engagement in authentic performance environments is vital to the inquiry approach that underpins teaching and learning in Physical Education. That is to say, removing physical performance assessment (objectives 2 and 3) from the Physical Education syllabus does not relate in any way to the removal movement and physical activity as a context for learning. Students in Physical Education, while not being assessed on the qualities of their personal performance, will still be required to integrate body and movement concepts with biophysical, sociocultural and psychological concepts and principles, in order to successfully become physically educated.

The removal of physical performance assessment in future versions of the Physical Education syllabus will remove constraints placed on student learning and outcomes, it will refine the educative e purpose of the syllabus, allow for a critical inquiry approach to learning in movement contexts and most importantly, will be rid of a bias, inequitable assessment technique that has little to no educative purpose for students pursuing further education.