ERG SES D 11, Pedagogy and Education
Personal meaning-making is idiosyncratic; it is an individual’s personal and internal interpretation of a particular context and experience, drawing on their feelings and emotions and involves a ‘noticing’ of their interest and their affective response to the experience (Kretchmar, 2007; Metheny, 1968). The approach to meaning-making proposed in this research builds on arguments for the personal meaning and intrinsic elements of physical activity experiences to be prioritised in physical education (e.g. Bulger&Housner, 2009; Kretchmar, 2008; 2013; Rintala, 2009). This view is built on the belief that much of the learning experienced during physical activity is personal and conceived by the individual (Nilges 2004). An approach that prioritises the personal meanings associated with physical activity participation – deepintrinsic or affective states such as joy and delight-- may be accessed resulting in a lifelong commitment to physical activity.Current approaches to physical education and physical activity, largely based on utilitarian reasons such as prevention of disease, do not seem to provide sufficient motivation for some young people to commit to physical activity participation as a part of their everyday lives (Kretchmar, 2008). By placing a greater focus on intrinsic rather than utilitarian reasons, children’s participation in, and commitment to physical activity may be increased (Johnson, 2012; Blankenship & Ayers, 2010).
Physical education(PE) programmes that have a joy-orientated, meaning-making emphasis can help students develop a love of physical activity by enabling students to be transported from the mundane to the memorable (Kretchmar 2013), thus producing lifelong movers (Blankenship and Ayers 2010). As PE activities often carry different meanings for and are perceived differently by pupils, this research aimed to develop an understanding of pedagogies that provide for the learning needs and desires of pupils (Metheny 1968). Kretchmar (2006a, p.7) identifies criteria that promote a meaningful PE experience: ‘social interaction, challenge, increased motor competence, fun and delight’. There is a need for the development of activities that challenge students both mentally and emotionally as well as physically as ‘play is most enjoyable when we attempt tasks that are not too easy or too hard for us’ (Blankenship & Ayers 2010, p172).When an approach that prioritises meaning is adopted the teacher’s role becomes that of an ‘activity broker’ who provide opportunities for extended engagement in physically active play.
The research question guiding this presentation is: What area teacher’s experiences of implementing a meaning-making approach in primary physical education?
There is a dearth of evidence on children’s meaning-making in physical education and no research focused in the Irish context. This research responds to calls in the literature for empirical studies describing pedagogies used to support meaning-making (Jewett, Bain, & Ennis, 1995; Kretchmar, 2008). Only one substantive study has explored how children make meaning in a primary PE lesson, focusing on dance (Nilges, 2004). Further research is needed to examine the meanings children take from a range of physical activity content areas and to identify strategies to allow for the discussion and interpretation of those meanings. This research will result in a better understanding of physical activity related meaning-making to inform a pedagogical framework to guide planning, teaching and assessment strategies
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