Dr. Louise McCuaig

Associate Professor Health, Sport and Physical Education

Dr Louise McCuaig is Associate Professor Health, Sport and Physical Education (HPE) and Learning Chair at the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Science, The University of Queensland (UQ). Louis is a dynamic educator whose innovative delivery of advanced PE and specialist Health Education courses has been recognised with the awarding of a Carrick Institute Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (2006) and UQ Teaching Excellence award (2008).

Louise’s current teaching and research addresses the curriculum, pedagogical and assessment practices of school based health education, and the impact of teachers and teaching on young people’s healthy living. Louise’s research relating to health literacy and salutogenic models of health and wellbeing contributed to the development of the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education and new Queensland Senior Health Syllabus.  

Against an international background of concern about the health of children and the implications for shaping productive young people, schools have been increasingly co-opted to the achievement of national public health agendas. In recognition of these demands, our research team undertook a five year investigation of the ‘health work’ performed by teachers in schools. This presentation draws on the findings of this research to demonstrate the benefits and costs of this complex dimension of teachers’ work and the implications for schools, teachers and their students. Drawing on Antonovsky’s salutogenic perspective of health, I further explore the manner in which interventionist thinking can undermine robust and educative health, sport and physical education programs in school settings. Building on this critique, I conclude with a range of strengths-based curriculum design strategies that can simultaneously address education agendas concerning science, literacy and numeracy, and the development of students’ healthy living knowledge and skills.  

A strengths-based approach to health and physical education (HPE) has been positioned as a foundational philosophy of the new Australian HPE curriculum.  This “positive” approach to HPE seeks to focus less on human deficits, societal and individual risk behaviours, and more on the strengths and resources that can be nurtured within young people and their communities. Building on my keynote presentation, this workshop will first review the range of theoretical perspectives informing strengths-based approaches and the reasons why this knowledge is critical for curriculum design. Drawing on a recent curriculum design project for Netball Queensland, participants will explore a range of contemporary youth “health issues” and the ways in which such health issues can be re-imagined and re-oriented to reflect a strengths-based approach to health education in school settings. Importantly, participants will be provided with a series of meta-curriculum design steps that will facilitate their future endeavours in constructing units of work that focus on or contribute to learning outcomes that can inform lifelong healthy living.