Advocacy and Service Learning in PDHPE - Empowering students to find their voice and make a difference.

7-10 7-10 pdhpe advocacy pdhpe Jan 30, 2024

In recent years, the concept of advocacy in my classroom has seamlessly intertwined with a Service Learning approach (What is service learning?).  "Service learning is a transformative pedagogy that seeks to integrate meaningful community service with academic content and skills, combined with critical reflection on the service-learning experience (Cairn and Kielsmeier, 1999 cited in Karayan & Gathercoal, 2005, p.79)". This integration has brought about transformative experiences for both students and the community.

When I first started my career as a teacher, I was blown away by the amazing ideas brewing in the minds of young people. However, when I marked their assessment tasks and provided feedback, I was often disheartened by the continuous pattern. These brilliant ideas would often be lost in pages of their workbooks, pushed back into the bags or thrown into their lockers never to see the light of day again. It left me always wanting a way to amplify their ideas and give more meaning to their thoughts and understanding. 

I considered the significance of these tasks and how the students' ideas could be transcended outside my classroom walls. Advocacy became the foundation of my teaching, this allows my students to transform the way they engage with their ideas, encouraging them to take action and give a voice to their thoughts. Advocacy in my classroom looks and feels like purposeful work with students actioning their ideas and creating a platform for their voice. 

Our young people have the ability to create great change and giving them the opportunity to share their ideas with a wider audience not only allows others to be educated but also motivates and nurtures problem solvers for real-world issues. 

In one of our Year 8 PDHPE Tasks, students were challenged to create an initiative to address an imbalance of power. Their task was to promote this initiative in the public domain while justifying their selected audience. I recall one student who witnessed a bullying incident on the school bus involving two Year 3 students. This student approached the school and the year group coordinator and attended the school to present an anti-bullying campaign to the year group, demonstrating strong justification and a clear positive message. This task empowers students to make a positive difference to others in our community. 

Another PBL task we undertook revolved around the driving question: "How can we help our peers remain healthy by educating them about risk behaviours and support services in our community?" Students reached out to various support services, inquiring about their promotions, target audience, and dissemination strategies. While some stumbled in framing their questions, this setback became a pivotal lesson in communication skills. Students learned the nuances of professional emailing and formal language, crucial for effective communication.

One group chose to promote their campaign by presenting at a school assembly on the detrimental effects of vaping on young people and promoting their selected support service. This was a testament to their dedication. They delivered a credible health message that resonated with their peers, utilising their ICT skills to engage the audience beyond expectations.

These remarkable achievements weren't just about presenting to me their average teacher in a PDHPE lesson. It was about valuing the impact of tasks that add value not only to themselves but to others.

Another example is when my high school class collaborated with the Head of Wellbeing in the Primary division. They identified a group of new students struggling to connect during lunchtime play. Responding to this, our high school students developed a series of lunchtime activities aimed at fostering connections among these younger students. For a week, they facilitated engaging activities, enabling the younger students to interact positively and form meaningful connections.

The high school students felt empowered by their ability to make a significant difference in the lives of others. Witnessing the younger students enjoy themselves and develop new friendships was immensely rewarding for both high school students and primary participants. What was particularly striking was how the assessment task of creating a game took on a deeper meaning. It wasn't merely an academic exercise; it was a service to their learning journey, their ideas directly influencing and positively impacting others in our wider community. 

As my teaching journey progresses, I'm increasingly focused on nurturing my students' confidence and their understanding of their impact. Exploring innovative teaching methods remains a priority, always assessing tasks to ensure they hold significance and purpose. I aim to make every learning experience valuable, not just in knowledge but also in fostering positive interpersonal skills. Students invest time in their tasks, and I strive to ensure each task contributes meaningfully to their growth, emphasising teamwork, communication, and empathy alongside content learning. Ultimately, my goal is to empower students not only academically but also as empathetic and responsible individuals in society.


Written by

Natalie Littler (PDHPE Teacher, St Columba Anglican School)



Service learning (2022) CASE - JCU Australia. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2023).

Karayan, S., & Gathercoal, P. (2005). Assessing service-learning in teacher educationTeacher Education Quarterly32(3), 79-92.

What is Service Learning? - Suffolk University. Available at (accessed 07 December 2023).

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