Higher-degree research being undertaken by Rachel O’Brien




Dr Kate Russell and Associate Professor Susan Goodwin

Thesis title:

Boys, masculinity and body practices in an elite school: the role of sport, health and physical education.



Project description

My study aims to hear and understand boys' experiences of becoming men within the context of sport, health and physical education in an elite school in Sydney. The study will employ a variety of critical methods including visual methods, observations, research conversations and interviews. Boys will be given the opportunity to self-problematise their masculinities, that is, to consider, reflect and critique their beliefs about masculinities. Throughout the research boys will consider questions such as: What does it mean to be a man? What is a successful man? What does it look like to be a man? How do I use my body to show my masculinity? The study will also explore teachers’ and coaches’ beliefs about masculinities and consider the way that they both embody and impart masculine beliefs upon their students throughout multiple aspects of elite school culture, both in the classroom and on the sporting field. The study hopes to provide boys with the opportunity to engage in critical discussions of masculinities within the context of Sport and HPE and, in doing so, promote considerations of diverse and dynamic masculinities.

Rachel O’Brien (Scheuer) graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Education (Hons 1) Human Movement Health Education in 2013. In her final year of study, she had the opportunity to both conduct her own research as part of her Honours degree and to work as a tutor in Nutrition for Health and Sport in the Education Faculty. This dynamic (and busy) combination sparked her interest in an academic career for the first time. Commencing doctoral study in 2014, her research has now evolved into a project that combines many of the things she is most passionate about: hearing young people’s stories, being a part of school life, and critically considering the role of Sport, Health and Physical Education in shaping the lives of young people. Alongside her research she regularly teaches in Health Education subjects at the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and the University of Wollongong and also serves as a Student Representative for the Office of Doctoral Studies Committee. She hopes to complete her PhD in 2017!


  • 2014-2017 Australian Postgraduate Award (APA)
  • 2014 Alumni Scholarship
  • 2014 Faculty of Education and Social Work Academic Merit Prize
  • 2013 Faculty of Education and Social Work Academic Merit Prize

Professional and community roles

  • Student Representative for the Office of Doctoral Studies Committee

Conference presentations