Back to blog

Reflections on the PE Research Review by Ofsted

In 1969 Muska Mosston published his continuum of teaching styles. These equipped PE teachers with 11 distinct styles that supported different learning processes and outcomes. In March 2022, Ofsted published the Research Review into PE in which they clearly prioritise 1 of the 11 teaching styles; Style B, Practice Style. In this blog, I will share some initial reflections. At the bottom you can click through to some questions, which aim to support teachers explore the applications and implications of the Research Review. 

The Review is a lengthy 30 page document with 231 references listed over a further 14 pages. Its purpose is to review and apply the research on how best to teach PE. By so doing, Ofsted is effectively defining which knowledge they think should be drawn upon to reach this goal. 

Similar processes have taken place in Wales and Scotland yet their guidance and NC’s are very different. It is beyond the scope of this blog to compare and contrast them but readers might wish to consider why that is the case. 

Research and governmental/regulatory bodies carry significant authority. Practitioners will read the Review with different degrees of criticality. There may also be a disconnect between being a critical reader and being able to act upon that in a school setting where they do not always have autonomy over curriculum and pedagogical decisions (despite teacher autonomy being a central tenet of Government policy since 2010 (DfE 2010)).

Here are some brief and initial reflections.

Knowledge drives everything. This is very much in line with Ofsted and the DfE pinning their colours firmly to ‘a knowledge rich curriculum’. This can be clearly illustrated in the word count analysis below and the repeated use of the phrase ‘know more and show more’. 

In determining what knowledge is required to achieve the universal goal of lifelong participation, the report focuses heavily on 3 pillars, competent movement, rules and tactics and healthy participation. Any author would inevitably have to filter research. This process is shaped by the wider context as well as conscious or unconscious biases. Many academics who write from a critical perspective are transparent about this and will make their position clear to the reader. If this is not declared, as is the case with this Research Review, there is a  danger  that the work is presented as ’gospel’ and ‘factual’. It takes on the guise of common sense and high authority especially when it carries an Ofsted badge.

The report acknowledges the universal goal of PE. It refers to the subject being a gateway to long term participation in sport and physical activity. This is deemed to be important for a range of reasons, one of which is having access to culturally significant events and traditions that form ‘our shared heritage’. No further detail is given on this, however, having heard the author expand on this point in presentations, I think it is fair to assume that the reference is to major sporting events like Wimbledon, The FA Cup etc. It should be acknowledged that advocating that these events contribute to a shared heritage makes assumptions about both identity and inclusion.

Returning to the universal goal, the report insists that the key determinant as to whether a young person finds a place for physical activity in their lives is knowledge and physical competency i.e. being sufficiently skilled to take part in a range of activities - ‘know more and show more’. With this as the driver, the report explains in detail how to ensure that pupils develop skill. It presents a range of linear processes as the way. This can be seen by the repeated reference to instruct, practise, feedback (Mosston’s Style B) and the clear statements that skill and knowledge must be in place before students can solve problems, be creative or learn in and through play/game-based activities. 

As mentioned, 10 of Mosston's 11 teaching styles get very little, if any, air time. There are a number of other, perhaps even more significant bodies of knowledge, research and practice that have shaped contemporary physical education over the last 40 years, that have been omitted completely, for example:

  • Physical Literacy (Whitehead, 2010)
  • Meaningful PE (Fletcher et al, 2021)
  • Games-based learning which covers a range of related pedagogical approaches - Teaching Games for Understanding, Game Sense, Play Practice (Thorpe et al, 1986; Light, 2002; Launder, 2001; Pill, 2021)
  • Positive Pedagogy (Light, 2011)
  • Sport Education (Siedentop et al, 1994)
  • Cooperative Learning (Dyson and Casey, 2014)
  • Models Based Practice (Metzler, 2000) (Casey et al, 2020)
  • Social and Emotional Learning (Hooper et al, 2020)
  • The Activist Approach (Oliver and Kirk, 2015)
Does this mean that teachers are discouraged from using them in their teaching? My own ‘research informed biases’ lean heavily towards much of this omitted work. I love the work being carried out in the name of Meaningful PE; as a teacher and teacher educator I favoured Games-based approaches and Positive Pedagogy. I’m curious to understand why, when so many well funded, well researched, National Governing Bodies in England as well as many PE policy makers in other countries, embrace this work in their approach to developmental youth sport and PE, the Research Review presents such a vastly different conclusion. 


The suggestion that research ‘proves’ that the linear, some might say, traditional, teacher centred approach that focuses on explicit, technical, teaching points, clear demonstrations, practice time to replicate the movement with WWW and EBI feedback (from the teacher) is highly contestable. It is also contentious to suggest that this type of PE has successfully led to PE delivering on its primary goal of helping more young people find a place for physical activity in their lives. Only a week before the review was released, Women In Sport (2022) published a report indicating that a million girls are lost to sport and physical activity with the main reason given in their research being the fear of being judged. Judgement is at the heart of the ‘do it like this’ version of PE, a version of the subject that Kirk (2010) describes as failing spectacularly in helping young people develop a positive relationship with physical activity. 

Perhaps the author was writing under the constraint of having to treat PE exactly like other subjects.. As long as PE claims to be primarily concerned with a behavioural outcome related to being physically active, insisting on consistency is always going to be problematic. At the heart of this tension is unpicking the (assumed) relationship between knowledge, more specifically the type of knowledge discussed in the review, and behaviour. Many researchers suggest that behaviour is driven by the social and emotional (affective) domain (Dolan, 2012; Teixeira 2012; Ekkekakis, 2013). Active people of all ages stay active because of the connections they make with the people around them and/or how the activity makes them feel. It might be the case therefore that the structured, linear approach featured in the Report might just be upside down. O’Connor and Penney (2021) suggest that young people who learn to move well, do so because they first form a strong emotional bond with activity. This attachment triggers their curiosity and motivation to hone in on the technical aspects of the activity. So might it be helpful to view knowledge more broadly than the way it is presented in the Review. Does it help to consider embodied, emotional and social knowledge too and are these dependent on the declarative knowledge that features so prominently? 

Complete this form to receive our FREE document designed to help you reflect on your work in light of the Review.


A word count analysis of the language used in the Review

Word/ phrase

Appearance in the body of the report



















Formative assessment

Assessment for Learning





1 (in relation to the teacher not the pupil)

Problem solving

4 (always presented as problematic) 





Personal relevance







2 (in relation to teaching)







Physical LIteracy



2 (in relation to exam entries)




Casey, A., MacPhail, A., Larsson, H., Quennerstedt, M. (2020) 'Between hope and happening: Problematizing the M and the P in models-based practice', .

Department for Education (2010) White Paper. The Importance of Teaching available at

Dolan, P. et al. (2012) 'Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way', Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(1), pp.264-277.

Dysen, B., Casey, A. (Ed) (2014) Co-operative Learning in Physical Education, Oxon: Routledge

Ekkekakis P. (2013). The measurement of affect, mood, and emotion: A guide for health-behavioral research. New York: Cambridge

Fletcher, T., Ní Chróinín, D.,  Gleddie, D., Beni S. (2021) Meaningful Physical Education; An Approach to Teaching and Learning. Oxon: Routledge

Hooper, O., Sandford, R., and Jarvis, H. (2020). “Thinking and feeling within/through physical education: what place for social and emotional learning?,” in Threshold Concepts in Physical Education, eds F. C. Chambers, D. Aldous, and A. Bryant (London: Routledge), 137–148.

Kirk, D. (2010). Physical Education Futures, Oxon: Routledge

Launder, A. (2001). Play practice: The games approach to teaching and coaching sports. Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Light, R. (2002). Engaging the body in learning: promoting cognition in games through TgfU. ACHPER Healthy Lifestyles Journal, 49(2), 23-26. 

Light, R. (2011) 'Opening up learning theory to social theory in research on sport and physical education through a focus on practice', Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 16(4), pp.369-382.

Mosston, M. (1969). “New models in physical education: Developmental movement and the Spectrum of styles.” Paper presented to the Differential Education Project, Madison Heights, MI

Metzler, M. W. (2000). Instructional Models for Physical Education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

O'Connor J., Penney D. (2021)Informal sport and curriculum futures: An investigation of the knowledge, skills and understandings for participation and the possibilities for physical education  European Physical Education Review,  27  (1) , pp. 3-26.

Ofsted (2022) Research Review: PE available at

Oliver, K., andn Kirk, D., (2015) Girls, Gender and Physical Education\; An Activist Approach. London, Routledge

Pill, S., (2021) Introduction: game based coaching in Perspectives on game based coaching. Pill, S. (ed.). 1 ed. Oxon: Routledge, Taylor and Francis,

Siedentop, D., Hastie, P., Van Der Mars, H. (1994) Complete Guide to Sport Education Leeds, Human Kinetics

Teixeira PJ, Carraça EV, Markland D, Silva MN, Ryan RM. (2012) Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys 22;9:78.

Thorpe, R.,Bunker, D., & Almond, L (Ed.), (1986) Rethinking games teaching,  Loughborough: University of Technology, Loughborough. 

Whitehead, M. (2010) Physical Literacy Throughout the Lifecourse, Oxon: Routledge

Women in Sport (2022) Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls availalbe at