18 SES 07, Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment in Physical Education: A Futuristic View
This paper calls for a re-evaluation the cognitive value claims of physical education, as this issue is fundamental to many of the conceptual difficulties the subject faces. This concern is fueled by recent theorizing, principally by Annas (2008; 2011), which is premised on resurrecting in a modern guise the ancient-historical idea that practical skills are similar to practical virtues. Thus, Annas sees an affinity between Csikszentmihalyi’s (1991) ideas of flow and philosophical discussions of pleasure; as for Annas harmoniously engaging in activity in an intelligent, focused and goal-directed way can be intrinsically rewarding. And, as one becomes more skillful and expert through intelligent practice, the more one is able to make virtuous decisions. Arguments cultivated on this basis could endorse the case that physical education can have both an intrinsic (in-subject) and instrumental (beyond-subject) value claim. This form of critique would be predicated on arguing that skillful practice can lead to the realization of higher performance and sporting standards as a result of being fully immersed in activities (intrinsic dividend) and also that learners can develop expertise through practice and are as a result are more capable of making more virtuous decisions in their lives (instrumental dividend).
Following a brief critique of some of the epistemological challenges physical education has faced e.g., Peters (1996) and Barrow (2008), the contested claims of Annas’s critique are reviewed. These include the concern that the intellectual skills common to practical activities are different from intellectual virtues in that practical skills are not a measure of being good or less good in the same way that applies to intellectual virtues, as skills are specific to context and task, whereas being virtuous is a more generalized measure. A further claim against Annas is that it appears counterintuitive (Stichter, 2007); in that, some people can acquire skills without necessarily understanding the principles which underpin the skill or of being able to provide a detailed account of their skilled actions. These concerns reveal that in terms of educative value, the skill context within which learning takes place is crucial to establishing positive connections between individual interest and contributing to becoming a wise and virtuous agent.
Thereafter, the paper evaluates the extent to which revised curriculum planning and pedagogical practices could support an enhanced focus on learners’ wider aspirations and achievements; factors crucial for a virtuous life. In curriculum terms, the most evident implication of the theorizing of Annas is in recognizing the importance of time, experience and practice for developing expertise. Curriculum planned accordingly would typically contain fewer activities and a longer and deeper engagement with those that are part of programmes. In this way, the habits of practice are part of the process of learning and ‘not in conflict with the fact that it is intelligent’ (Annas, 2011, p. 169). In pedagogical terms, Annas provides sympathy more than advice and this leaves the physical educationalist needing to review how to balance moments when learners are in the flow and when their skills and abilities are thoroughly engaged in practical challenges with times when there is a learning focus on the virtues of being good participants and coming to their own reflective evaluations on the extent to which they are good at accepting decisions, working constructively with others etcetera. In this way, teachers would be playing their part in opening ‘up the minds of young people to precisely the kind of critical appreciation of basic human values and aspirations which is the hallmark of moral understanding’ (Carr, 1998, p.131).
Annas, J. 2011. Intelligent Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Arnold, P. 1979. Meaning in movement, sport and physical education. London: Heinemann. Barrow, R. 2008. Education and the Body: Prolegomena, British Journal of Educational Studies, 56 (3): 272-285. Besser-Jones, L. 2012. The motivational state of the virtuous agent, Philosophical Psychology, 25 (1): 93-108. Carr, D. 1998. ‘What moral significance has physical education? A question in need of disambiguation.’ In Ethics and Sport, edited by M.J. McNamee and S.J. Parry (pp. 119-133). London: E&FN Spon. Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1991. Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York: HarperCollins. Hacker-Wright, J. 2015. Skill, Practical Wisdom, and Ethical Naturalism, Ethical Theory Moral Practice, 18 (5): 983-993. Jacobson, D. 2005. Seeing by feeling: virtues, skills, and moral perception, Ethical Theory Moral Practice, 8 (4): 387-409. Kirk, D. 2010. Physical Education Futures. London: Routledge. Kirk, D. 2013. Educational Value and Models-Based Practice in Physical Education, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 45 (9): 973-986. MacIntyre, A. 2007. After Virtue: a study in moral theory. London: Duckworth. Ozolins, J. 2013. The Body and the Place of Physical Activity in Education: Some Classical Perspectives, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 45 (9): 892-907. Peters, R. S. 1966. Ethics and Education. London: Allen & Unwin. Reid, A. 1996a. The Concept of Physical Education in Current Curriculum and Assessment Policy in Scotland, European Physical Education Review, 2 (1): 7-18. Stichter, M. 2007. Ethical expertise: the skill model of virtue, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 10 (2): 183-194. Stolz, S. A., & Kirk, D. 2015. David Kirk on physical education and sport pedagogy: in dialogue with Steven Stolz (part 2). Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 6 (2): 127-142. Surprenant, C. W. 2014. Physical Education as a Prerequisite for the Possibility of Human Virtue, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 46 (5): 527-535. Swartwood, J. D. 2013. Wisdom as an Expert Skill, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 16 (3): 511-528. Thorburn, M. 2008. Articulating a Merleau-Pontian phenomenology of physical education: the quest for active student engagement and authentic assessment in high-stakes examination awards, European Physical Education Review, 14 (2): 263-280. Thorburn, M. & MacAllister, J. 2013. Dewey, interest and well-being: Prospects for improving the educational value of physical education, Quest, 65 (4): 458-468. Thorburn, M. & Stolz, S. 2015. Embodied learning and school-based physical culture: implications for professionalism and practice in physical education, Sport, Education and Society, Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13573322.2015.1063993
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