Teaching ‘Health’ in Physical Education in a ‘Healthy’ Way

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In many countries around the world, the subject of physical education (PE) is explicitly and directly responsible for the health education of
children and young people. However, although the official policy texts for each curriculum describe health in a holistic way, referring to the development of mental, social, emotional as well as physical wellbeing, we highlight concerns that a more prevailing ‘healthism’ discourse relating primarily to fitness and physical wellbeing is influencing the way the PE curriculum is both interpreted and delivered. Consequently, this paper beginsby offering a Foucaultian analysis of the healthism discourse that exists within the context of PE in order toprovide a more in-depth understanding of the ways in which it is formed, reinforced and how manifests itself in the day to day practices of teachers and the experiences of the learner. From this,we explore the ways in which a broader form of PE might be delivered, a form that places the learner, and the needs of the lear
ner, firmly at the heart of the teaching and learning process. Self-Determination Theory is presented as a useful framework to understand how this might
be achieved. The paper concludes by suggesting that there is a need for researchers to work collaboratively with teachers in order to understand their practice and how this impacts on student experience. Such research is important if schools and PE teachers are to construct a more holistic view of health and ultimately enhance their teaching, learning and student health and wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalRETOS: Nuevas tendenies en Educacion Fisica Deportes y Recreacion
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Physical education
  • health and wellbeing
  • healthism discourse
  • self-determination theory

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