Health and Physical Education 2013

Publication Details

In 2013 the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) assessed student achievement in two learning areas of the NZC – health and physical education, and mathematics and statistics. This report focuses on health and physical education. Physical Education is referred to as ‘PE’ in tables and graphs, and the titles of tables and graphs.

Author(s): Education Assessment Research Unit and New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Date Published: May 2015

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Executive Summary

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) – Wānangatia Te Putanga Tauira – is designed to assess and understand student achievement across the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) at Year 4 and Year 8 in New Zealand's English-medium state schools. The main purposes of NMSSA are:

  • to provide a snapshot of student achievement against the NZC;
  • to identify factors that are associated with achievement;
  • to assess strengths and weaknesses across the  curriculum;
  • to measure change in student achievement over time; and
  • to provide high quality, robust information for policy makers, curriculum planners and educators.


NMSSA began in 2012 and is carried out over a five-year cycle. It focuses on two learning areas of the NZC each year. During the first cycle we are setting the baseline for measuring change in student achievement over time in subsequent cycles. This report is the full technical report of the national level findings from NMSSA prepared for the Ministry of Education.

In 2013 the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) assessed student achievement in two learning areas of the NZC – health and physical education, and mathematics and statistics. This report focuses on health and physical education. Physical Education is referred to as 'PE' in tables and graphs, and the titles of tables and graphs.

The NZC expresses learning expectations in health and physical education as achievement objectives that describe the knowledge and skills students should be able to display as they progress from one curriculum level to the next. Each level builds on the one before, as well as introducing new ideas and skills. Learning objectives are presented across four strands: personal health and physical development, movement concepts and motor skills, relationships with other people, and healthy communities and environments.

NMSSA assessed achievement in health and physical education in two ways: by using a measure of Critical Thinking in Health and Physical Education; and descriptive reporting of students' understanding of well-being, and the demonstration of a range of movement and strategic action skills within the contexts of games, and movement sequences. The Critical Thinking in Health and Physical Education achievement measure was aligned to the levels of the NZC. Other data related to students', teachers' and principals' views of teaching and learning in health and physical education were also collected via questionnaires.

The NZC sets out the requirements for different levels of the curriculum in each learning area.  The expectations for student learning at Level 2 of health and physical education are that students should be able to describe or be familiar with basic concepts in these areas. A student may be able to achieve at Level 2 on the basis on family/whānau experiences outside school, whole school learning, or other forms of prior knowledge. The results from NMSSA's 2013 study showed that over 95 percent of students at Year 4 were achieving at Level 2 of the NZC. Level 4 of the curriculum is naturally more demanding: students are expected to be able to explain and discuss or demonstrate knowledge and understanding of particular concepts. To achieve at Level 4 of the curriculum students need to have been exposed to specific health and physical education teaching.  A similar pattern may also occur in learning areas such as science and social studies. The 2013 study suggests that by Year 8 only 50 percent of students were achieving at Level 4 of the curriculum.

There was considerable variation in performance at both Year 4 and Year 8, as well as a level of overlap between score distributions for each year level. The difference in achievement ('progress') between Year 4 and Year 8 was smaller than that recorded for NMSSA Mathematics (2013) or Writing (2012), and similar to that reported for Science (2012). In considering these findings it is important to understand both the requirements of the NZC and the context in which learning occurs for health and physical education.

Socio-economic factors were strongly associated with performance. This pattern was similar to findings in NMSSA 2012, for both Science and Writing (and in previous NEMP reports). On average, students from low decile schools (deciles 1, 2 and 3) scored lower than those who attended high decile schools (deciles 8, 9, and 10). At each year level, the difference in average scores between these groups was equivalent to the amount of progress expected over about two years of schooling. On average, NZ European students scored at higher levels on the Critical Thinking in Health and Physical Education measure than Māori and Pasifika students at each year level Although Māori and Pasifika students were more likely to attend low and mid decile schools, analyses showed that differences due to ethnicity (NZ European, Māori and Pasifika) were observable after decile was taken into account.

Girls and boys performed equally well on the Critical Thinking in Health and Physical Education measure at each year level, as did students from different types of school.

Students demonstrated a broad understanding of well-being that extended beyond the physical dimension. A high proportion of students were able to describe mental/emotional and social dimensions, although a much smaller proportion described a spiritual dimension to well-being.

Students' movement skills developed considerably from Year 4 to Year 8. Boys scored higher on a range of movement skills, and strategic action skills that included rotation, agility, and balance in the context of games. Girls scored slightly higher on performing movement sequences skills that included control and use of equipment, change of pace, level, and use of their bodies, as well as variations in movements, and use of space. Students in high decile schools scored higher on the range of movement and strategic action skills, and markedly higher on the movement sequences skills. These gender and decile differences in movement skills are longstanding and were also observed through the NEMP studies.

The study provides some evidence, based on the specific survey items used by NMSSA, that contextual factors such as attitudes towards health and physical education, and learning experiences at school are only weakly related to student achievement.

In general, physical education had a higher priority in schools' teaching programmes than health (being ranked 7th/8th compared to 11th/12th out of 17 aspects of learning areas). Priorities differed by school decile. At Year 4, a greater proportion of low decile schools placed a high priority on health and physical education while at Year 8, similar proportions of low, mid and high decile schools assigned both high and low priorities to health and physical education. Due to these decile differences in priority ranking it was not possible to determine if a relationship existed between school priority ranking and achievement in health and physical education.

Teachers reported relatively high levels of professional development and support. Over two thirds of teachers had received professional development in health and physical education in the last two years compared to one third in Science (NMSSA, 2012).  Teachers also reported higher confidence and enjoyment in their teaching of health and physical education than was the case for NMSSA English: writing or Science (2012). The most frequently cited source of support for classroom teaching was external providers.

Footnotes

  1. National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement, Science 2012, Educational Assessment Research Unit, Otago University and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research
  2. National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement, Writing 2012, Educational Assessment Research Unit, Otago University and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

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