A test of Empowering PE™ in Welsh Secondary School Physical Education

Getting every child hooked on sport for life is the aspiration within the vision for Sport in Wales.

In order for this ambition to be realised, it is essential that young peoples’ experiences in Physical Education (PE) are motivating and equip them with the skills, desire and confidence to participate in sport and other forms of physical activities for life. However, research suggests PE in Welsh schools is currently turning many pupils off PE rather than engaging with them (Sport Wales Publications, ‘Attitudes to School Sport’) contributing to only 26% of secondary school children who are regularly active.

Clearly then, Welsh PE teachers (as is the case for PE teachers in general) would benefit from training on how to create the optimal environment which will  facilitate pupils’ quality engagement in PE.

In collaboration with Sport Wales and Cardiff Metropolitan University, this project evaluated the Empowering PE™ in Welsh Secondary School PE. Empowering PETM is an education programme that aims to help teachers make PE more enjoyable and engaging for all pupils, regardless of their physical skills and capabilities, by creating a more empowering motivational climate. Empowering PE™ is informed by contemporary theories of motivation and behaviour change, and is part of the Empowering Coaching™ family of training programmes developed by Professor Duda at the University of Birmingham.

In the current study, Empowering PE™ was delivered to 31 Secondary School PE teachers from across Wales. We also recruited over 800 year 9 pupils who provided questionnaire data on key variables (e.g., perceptions of teachers’ behaviours, motivation to do PE, intentions to be physically active during leisure-time) before and after their teacher had attended the Empowering PE™ workshop.

Teachers commented that the workshop was the right approach for creating pupils' "sporting habit for life"

Recent policy papers on Welsh education (e.g., Donaldson’s “Successful Futures” report; The Schools and Physical Activity Task and Finish Group’s “Physical Literacy” document) have recommended that every child in Wales is entitled to high-quality PE as this would ensure pupils are physically literate and thus have the skills, confidence and motivation to take part in sport and physical activity throughout their lives.

The findings from this project suggest this aspiration is more likely when PE teachers in Wales are purposely and systematically trained via their participation in the Empowering PE™ workshop. To ensure Welsh secondary school PE teachers continue to have the possibility of engaging in the Empowering PE™ training following the end of this project, we have trained four expert teacher trainers to be able to deliver the workshop independent of the research team.

What are the outcomes of this research?

Our findings demonstrated that pupils’ intentions to be physically active during their leisure-time significantly increased as a result of their teacher attending the Empowering PETM workshop. Following their attendance at the Empowering PE™ workshop, teachers articulated how they had attempted to create an empowering climate in class, and why this had subsequently promoted pupils’ quality of engagement in PE.

Importantly, teachers also commented that the workshop had “made PE more interesting and engaging for pupils”, “resulted in higher levels of confidence and enjoyment” and was the right approach for creating pupils’ “sporting habit for life”. 

People involved

  • Professor Joan Duda (Project Lead) and Dr Paul Appleton (Project Manager) (University of Birmingham)
  • Dr Eleanor Quested (previous Project Manager) (Curtin University, Australia) (employed at the University of Birmingham during the project)
  • Daniel Milton, Dr Anna Bryant and Julia Longville (Cardiff Met University)
  • Dr Rachel Hughes and Julie Rotchell (Sport Wales)