The Power of Modelling Healthy Behaviours

Two weeks ago, Mrs Cotter shared details of her personal life and demonstrated the power of encouragement. Today, I am here to talk to you about how adults and peers can have a profound impact on student behaviour through positive modelling.

Physical activity has always been a passion I hold near and dear to my heart. As a child, sporting pursuits were one of the few instances that my family would gather to spend time together. As an adult, moving from city to city every two years, I found joining a sports team was a great way to make friends and familiarise myself with my new surroundings. In fact, meeting my partner at a wood chopping competition in the South Island years ago is the very reason that I came to permanently live in New Zealand and teach at Pukeoware School.

Aligning with my own personal interests, one of my career passions has focussed on encouraging students to be active both inside and outside of school time. In fact, I devoted my master’s thesis and two years of my life researching how teachers can motivate children to be physically active.

My research, supported with many studies before and after mine, found that children need to believe a behaviour is attainable and within their control if they are going to attempt it. One of the ways that children can be supported to believe that they can try something new, is to have others around them attempting and succeeding in this new behaviour.

In Ako Timatanga, Mrs Cotter and myself are constantly modelling positive behaviours we want to see in our students (e.g. kindness, resilience, emotional regulation etc.). Frequently, we also share with the students our athletic pursuits outside of school. Since moving to New Zealand, I have shared with the students my weekly pursuit of learning to play two new sports- soccer and netball. Modelling to students how to give new things a go, stick with something even though its challenging, and eventually gain confidence in an activity, encourages them to pursue new endeavours themselves.

Modelling of positive behaviours can also come from peers. Ako Timatanga has a wealth of rugby players, soccer players, dancers, runners and more, and we take the time to celebrate their athletic accomplishments. Children observing their classmates experiencing  success and enjoyment in activity, is a great motivator for them to seek out these behaviours themselves.

Along with developing students that see themselves as readers, writers, mathematicians, artists, musicians, and scientists, we also want to inspire and encourage children to enjoy and participate in physical activity. Modelling these healthy lifestyle behaviours are key to supporting children to be active now and throughout their lives.

If you’re interested in further reading on how to motivate children to be physically active, I encourage you to check out my thesis below, which references a wealth of similar research.

Children’s Physical Self-Efficacy and Free-Time Physical Activity

Ms Steward



  • Ms Michie says:

    Thank you for sharing your passion with us ms Steward. Tino pai to mahi!

  • Erin says:

    I really enjoy these blogs as away to get to know more about the wonderful team who support Amaia in her learning! It really is amazing the challenges children will take on when they feel safe and supported, and are surrounded by positive role models!!

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