18 SES 09 JS, The Practice of Inclusion in Physical Activity Settings
Joint Paper Session NW 18 and NW 19
This paper draws from a recent evaluation of the Cambridge House (CH, a UK-based charity) ‘Playdagogy’ programme; an initiative that seeks to use sport-based games as a vehicle to facilitate young people’s understanding of disability, impairment and inclusion. The programme employs a methodology developed by PL4Y International within a European context (and now employed internationally) which conveys educational messages via the medium of sport-based games and physical activities. Playdagogy can be seen to contribute to a growing body of international work on positive youth development (e.g. Holt, 2008; Armour et al., 2013) and Sport for Development (SfD) (e.g. Giulianotti 2011; Darnell, 2012). In both cases, there is an acknowledgement of the ‘power of sport’ to excite and engage young people, as well as offer opportunities to enhance personal, social and moral development and contribute more widely to sustainable social developments. In focusing on promoting understandings of inclusion and disability through sport-based games, Playdagogy can also be perceived to reflect a growing recognition of the importance of ensuring inclusion and equity in sport for disabled young people and critiquing ‘normalized conceptions and practices in youth sport’ that have meant that physical education has not always been a ‘happy place’ for disabled children (Fitzgerald, 2009, 3-5). In this respect, the programme also builds on the work of international initiatives such as the Inclusion Spectrum framework (Stevenson & Black, 2011), Mixed Ability Sport (www.mixedabilitysports.org) and ‘No Barriers, No Borders’ (SALTO, 2006).
The CH Playdagogy programme embraces a teaching methodology that supports children’s learning/development through the playing of games and sports. In terms of underlying philosophies, three main perspectives underpin the programme. Firstly, constructivist perspectives of learning; with pedagogical practice being shaped around techniques of questioning, problem-solving and debate (MacDonald, 2013) to encourage young people’s active involvement in constructing knowledge and understanding in collaboration with those around them. Secondly, play-based education (Henricks 2015) where play is believed to promote holistic development and act as a laboratory in which children learn skills for life. Finally, notions of anti-oppressive education; in particular ‘Education About the Other’ (EAO) (Kumashiro, 2000) which seeks to challenge stereotypes and social biases, promote empathy and encourage children to understand that ‘people are different and difference should be celebrated’ (Beckett 2015, 79).
It has been noted that progress has been made in conceptualising ‘anti-disableist’ or ‘anti-ableist’ pedagogies within the context of inclusive education (Beckett, 2015), but that these have yet to be traced clearly into relevant curricula or teaching and learning strategies. In this respect, the Playdagogy programme raises intriguing questions; including how to resolve the inherent tensions involved in seeking to address issues of impairment, disability and inclusion through sport - a field bounded by discourses around the ‘able’ body. Sport/PA is highly controversial terrain within ‘disability politics’. Participation in sport/PA can highlight the inabilities of people with impairments; yet it can also highlight their abilities, providing a challenge to ableist assumptions about ‘in/capacity’ (Berger, 2008). Within this paper, through providing an insight into the impact of the CH Playdagogy project, we look to explore some of these questions and examine the potential for these debates to aid future programme design/development. Moreover, in acknowledging claims that educational messages are often inherent but not explicit within these kinds of sport for development programmes, we also heed the call for a closer look at the ‘educational process and impact of SfD initiatives’ (Rossi & Jeanes, 2016, 484) and, specifically, examine the place of an inclusion/disability focus in future SfD work.
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