Dr Nick Riley
School of Education (Education)
- Phone:(02) 4985 4254
Let's get physical
Nick Riley believes integrating physical activity into core school subjects can improve not only students' health but their behaviour and their academic performance.
The idea that classroom learning and physical education can be complementary is the concept behind a novel PhD project being conducted by Nick Riley, a lecturer in the School of Education and researcher with the Faculty's new Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition.
"There are lot of health benefits that come from increased activity and there is a lot of research that suggests that active children actually have the potential to perform better cognitively and academically," Riley says.
Riley, who trained in physical education but spent 18 years as a classroom teacher in primary schools in the north of England, has developed a program called EASY Minds (Encouraging Activity to Stimulate Young Minds) as a research project.
His program integrates physical activity into maths, English, science and HISE (history/social science) lessons. Riley has completed a feasibility study in one school and will repeat the program across four schools in a pilot study next year.
For the initial study he went into a school three times a week over a six-week period and taught hour-long lessons in core subjects, employing physical activity as a learning tool.
"If I was teaching multiplication, for example, rather than have the students do an exercise on paper, I might take them outside and time them running over 20 metres then get them to calculate how long it would take them to run 100 metres, or 90 metres, using that information," Riley explains.
"Or, rather than measuring area and perimeter in a book, they might go out and measure the area and perimeter of the playground.
"It's still a maths lesson but it integrates physical activity, and because the kids have ownership of the data, they are more engaged in the exercise."
The children in the study wear an accelerometer, a device that records their activity levels, over the school week.
The primary aim of the intervention program is to increase daily activity but Riley says it can influence classroom behaviour and self-esteem as well.
While all children responded well in the feasibility study, Riley says integrated activity can be particularly beneficial for kinesthetic, or physically oriented, learners who are more inclined to become disengaged with traditional classroom teaching methods.
"Often they are the kids who end up getting in trouble and get a reputation for being disruptive," he says.
"I believe all kids have huge potential and as educators and teachers we have to find the key to unlock that potential."
Nick has demonstrated teaching excellence and his commitment to quality teaching and learning across a diverse range of courses. He is a highly valued member of the School of Education, specialising in Primary School Health and Physical Education.
Nick won the vice chancellors award for teaching excellence in 2011.Research Expertise
Nick has recently completed his PhD study. The EASY (Encouraging Activity to Stimulate Young) Minds program was a highly successful school-based intervention that integrated physical activity across the Primary school mathematics curriculum that successfully enhanced both learning and health outcomes and was supported by a grant from the Department of Education school sport unit. This led to the development of an online resource for teachers including promotional videos and lesson ideas.
These resources are available at https://online.det.nsw.edu.au/psc/programs/getActiveInMiddleYears.html
This was followed by a grant for the dissemination of the program. In 2015 over 170 teachers attended 8 one day professional learning workshops delivered across NSW areas including Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga and Bathurst. In 2016 a further 8 workshops are taking place that target teachers interested in integrating physical activity into their classroom teaching of mathematics. Details can be found at http://www.sports.det.nsw.edu.au/tpl/2016/sport.php
Teachers attending acquire research based teaching ideas, resources and practice classroom management skills to engage students more effectively in mathematics by including physical activity in the context of maths lessons. They also gain an understanding of the potential benefits integration can bring to the teaching of other KLAs.
The NSW Department of Education is currently implementing Dr Riley's PhD work through a pilot study known as 'Thinking While Moving'. They have recently awarded an additional grant to Dr Riley, Professor Morgan, and Professor Lubans to examine the effect of active mathematics lessons on cognitive/executive functioning.
Primary School Health and Physical Education I currently teach/coordinate/ lecture on all primary school HPE courses at the University. Coordinator EDUC2747, EDUC6747, EDUC 2058 Teach EDUC2515,EDUC2515, PUBH1030.
- Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
- Bachelor of Science (Honours), Lancaster University - England
- Certificate in Education, University of Liverpool - UK
- Certificate III in Information Technology, University of Central Lancashire
- Health and Physical Education
- Movement-based Learning
- Physical Activity
- Primary School
- Sedentary Behaviour
- Student engagement
Fields of Research
|130105||Primary Education (excl. Maori)||90|
|Title||Organisation / Department|
|Lecturer||University of Newcastle
School of Education
|Dates||Title||Organisation / Department|
|1/09/2001 - 1/12/2007||Teacher Adviser||Local Education Authority
Vice Chancellors award for teaching excellence
University of Newcastle
|Year||Title / Rationale|
Organisation: Sport and Recreation Annual Conference Description: Integrating Maths in Ourdoor Education Centres
Organisation: Academic Performance and physical Activity Description: ACHPER Regional Conferences March Western Sydney. July- Central Coast Sept- Mid Noth Coast Coffs Harbour
For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.
Journal article (4 outputs)
Riley N, Lubans DR, Holmes K, Morgan PJ, 'Findings from the EASY minds cluster randomized controlled trial: Evaluation of a physical activity integration program for mathematics in primary schools', Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13 198-206 (2016) [C1]
Â© 2016 Human Kinetics, Inc.To evaluate the impact of a primary school-based physical activity (PA) integration program delivered by teachers on objectively measured PA and key ed... [more]
Â© 2016 Human Kinetics, Inc.To evaluate the impact of a primary school-based physical activity (PA) integration program delivered by teachers on objectively measured PA and key educational outcomes. Methods: Ten classes from 8 Australian public schools were randomly allocated to treatment conditions. Teachers from the intervention group were taught to embed movement-based learning in their students' (n = 142) daily mathematics program in 3 lessons per week for 6 weeks. The control group (n = 98) continued its regular mathematics program. The primary outcome was accelerometer-determined PA across the school day. Linear mixed models were used to analyze treatment effects. Results: Significant intervention effects were found for PA across the school day (adjusted mean difference 103 counts per minute [CPM], 95% confidence interval [CI], 36.5-169.7, P =.008). Intervention effects were also found for PA (168 CPM, 95% CI, 90.1-247.4, P =.008) and moderate-to-vigorous PA (2.6%, 95% CI, 0.9-4.4, P =.009) in mathematics lessons, sedentary time across the school day (-3.5%, 95% CI,-7.0 to-0.13, P =.044) and during mathematics (-8.2%, CI,-13.0 to-2.0, P =.010) and on-task behavior (13.8%, 95% CI, 4.0-23.6, P =.011)-but not for mathematics performance or attitude. Conclusion: Integrating movement across the primary mathematics syllabus is feasible and efficacious.
Riley N, Lubans DR, Morgan PJ, Young M, 'Outcomes and process evaluation of a programme integrating physical activity into the primary school mathematics curriculum: The EASY Minds pilot randomised controlled trial', JOURNAL OF SCIENCE AND MEDICINE IN SPORT, 18 656-661 (2015) [C1]
Riley N, Lubans DR, Holmes K, Morgan PJ, 'Rationale and study protocol of the EASY Minds (Encouraging Activity to Stimulate Young Minds) program: cluster randomized controlled trial of a primary school-based physical activity integration program for mathematics.', BMC Public Health, 14 816 (2014) [C3]
Lubans DR, Morgan PJ, Callister R, Plotnikoff RC, Eather N, Riley N, Smith CJ, 'Test-retest reliability of a battery of field-based health-related fitness measures for adolescents', Journal of Sports Sciences, 29 685-693 (2011) [C1]
|Show 1 more journal article|
Conference (4 outputs)
Riley N, Morgan PJ, Lubans DR, 'Preliminary findings of the E.A.S.Y. (Encouraging Activity to Stimulate Young) Minds feasibility study: A curriculum-based physical activity integration program in the primary school', Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2012) [E3]
Riley N, Morgan PJ, Lubans DR, 'Methodology of the E.A.S.Y. (Encouraging Activity to Stimulate Young) minds study: evaluation of a curriculum-based physical activity integration program in the primary school', 2011 Annual Meeting of the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) eProceedings (2011) [E3]
Riley N, Morgan PJ, Lubans DR, 'Rationale and intervention description of a primary school-based program to integrate physical activity across the curriculum and engage children in movement-based learning', Obesity Research and Clinical Practice (2010) [E3]
|2009||Riley N, 'Rationale and intervention description of a primary school-based program to integrate physical activity across the curriculum and engage parents in movement-based learning at home', Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2009) [E3]|
|Show 1 more conference|
Grants and Funding
|Number of grants||2|
Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.
20161 grants / $70,000
Funding body: Department of Education
20121 grants / $54,568
Thinking while moving: Development of a curriculum-based physical activity integration program in the primary school$54,568
Funding body: NSW Department of Education and Communities
|Funding body||NSW Department of Education and Communities|
|Project Team||Professor Philip Morgan, Professor David Lubans, Doctor Nick Riley, Associate Professor Kathryn Holmes|
|Type Of Funding||Other Public Sector - State|
Number of supervisions
Total current UON EFTSL
|Commenced||Level of Study||Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type|
Thinking While Moving: Enhancing the Evidence for Movement-Based Learning in Schools.
PhD (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle