Understanding students' experiences in a PE, health and well-being context: a self-determination theory perspective

Shirley Gray, Fiona Mitchell, C. K. John Wang, Ashley Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Framed by Self-Determination Theory, this investigation explored student experience as they engaged in their physical education (PE), health and well-being (HWB) curriculum in Scotland for the first time. We aimed to uncover the features of various learning environments that appeared to impact upon student motivation in PE over the period one academic year. We carried out focus group interviews with students from one state secondary school (secondary 1 and 2; ages 12–14) and its feeder primary schools (primary 7; age 11 years) immediately after a selection of PE lessons throughout the year. Furthermore, to provide some additional context for our analysis, the students in each year completed a questionnaire (pre–post) to identify and understand their motivation for PE over time. The results from the interviews indicated that students had a number of positive and negative PE experiences. However, the results from the questionnaire demonstrate that the students’ experiences during the first year of this ‘new’ curriculum had little impact on their motivation for PE. The findings highlight the importance of mixed methods research to provide context-specific account of student experience. This detail may be critical for the development of informed and effective pedagogy that supports student learning, health and well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-173
Number of pages17
JournalCurriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education
Issue number2
Early online date26 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2018


  • physical education
  • health and well-being
  • learning experiences
  • self-determination theory
  • basic needs
  • physical activity
  • curriculum change
  • pedagogy
  • Scotland


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