Motivation & Human Behaviour: Kick-starting your Physical Education career

by frank-stuart

To be successful as a Health and Physical Education (HPE) Teacher requires a person who can recognise what motivates each student and exhibit strong communication skills to train students to perform to their best physically, and grow personally, developing strong self-esteem and wellbeing.

Health and Physical Education (HPE) is a dynamic profession. Students will look up to their HPE Teacher as they develop through one of the most important life stages:

Adolescence – Teachers need to be a powerful role model exhibiting strong communication skills, professional personal presentation, and be willing to be actively involved in the learning of their students.

Communication skills

Communicating key messages of health and an active lifestyle are critical for success. Communication comes in three main forms: oral, written and non-verbal. Oral communication involves explaining and presenting facts, examples and ideas clearly to a diverse group of students from different cultures and backgrounds. You will need to develop a deep knowledge and understanding of each HPE topics, improve your presenting skills, be aware of your students as an audience, and be aware of your body language and critical listening skills.

Your literacy and research skills will allow you to communicate your written information effectively to your students. Critical health literacy and an understanding of how and why the body moves are essential to spread the word on health, fitness and wellbeing. Personal and real-life examples can help to ‘connect’ teachers with their students.

Professional Personal Presentation

Non-verbal communication is a powerful tool that allows a teacher to express ideas and concepts through body language such as facial gestures, body and hand gestures and the use of resources such as pictures, texts or ICT. Action can speak louder than words! Voice is one of the most important tools of a teacher and tone can be used to extend a narrative, create suspense or intrigue to emphasise a point. A great teacher can vary their tone and may never need to raise their voice to gain the attention of their audience or students. A whistle and hand gestures can really help too when teaching outside on an oval or sports field. Cultural differences exist in non-verbal communication and these include appearance, body movement and posture, in addition to gestures and facial expressions. To be successful, teachers need to learn the backgrounds and cultures of their students, as respect is a two-way street.

Motivational Techniques

Facing classes of approximately 30 students aged between 12- to 18-years every day will require motivation and an understanding of how students learn. Motivation should come from within and a successful teacher will use a variety of teaching methods and techniques to ensure they engage students visually, orally and cognitively every lesson. When presenting new topics or physical skills to students, teachers need to ensure cognitive knowledge and facts are presented using clear and relevance examples. In order to ensure students understand what is required of them, a great teacher will provide these facts and a practical example or demonstration for their students. This will ensure they appeal to all styles of learners (visual, auditory, or tactile – see, hear, or hands-on).


Practice, practice and more practice is required to consolidate skills and knowledge. Assessment should be presented in a variety of ways to ensure all students can succeed. Not all students perform well in written exams. Some students can research and present knowledge or create an interactive PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate their learning. Finally, student learning should become autonomous. Just like Luke Burt (Parramatta Eels)* kicking goals from any position on the field, your students should be placed in a position to ensure they reach an autonomous stage of learning. Knowledge should be recalled and applied, and skills can be performed without error on a regular basis and in a variety of conditions.


Finally, if you are committed and well prepared, this should minimise disruption in your lessons. Students are very quick and know when teachers are ‘winging it!’ A sound lesson plan and management strategies are essential for every indoor and outdoor lesson for a HPE Teacher. And just like student expectations, teachers need to practice, practice and practice classroom management and discipline techniques. Schools have a discipline policy and code of conduct for their students. Consistently applying the rules every day will ensure teachers start on the right track to a successful and thoroughly rewarding teaching career. Enjoy it!

At ACPE, our PE Teaching courses offer a diverse range of practical experience and geared towards providing you with skills in physical education, personal development, health and human movement.

By Angelee Boyd – Associate Dean (Student Services) at ACPE

Angelee commenced at ACPE in 2002 and in 2007 and was appointed Associate Dean (Student Services). She has held Course Convenor roles for the Bachelor of Education and the BHM (Sport) degrees and managed the Elite Athlete Program. Angelee is currently on leave in the USA with her family for 2012 and is still developing and leading online units for ACPE. She will graduate with her PhD in July 2012.


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