18 SES 08, Development in and through Dance
The dimensions of physical education such as physical development, personal development and social development, are emphasised differently across Europe (European Commission 2013). In general, however, most European countries have organised their physical education on gender- and sport-specific practices (European Commission 2013), Finland being no exception (Huisman 2004; Palomäki & Heikinaro-Johansson 2011). Recently, Finland took a step towards more integrated and less gender-specific physical education as it launched new national core curricula for both basic education (grades 1-9) and for upper secondary school (grades 10-12) that all Finnish schools started to follow in fall 2016. For the first time, the new curricula leaves out the sport-specific goals and, rather, emphasise the importance of embodiment as a part of physical education. Embodiment in the curriculum for basic education includes supporting students’ body acceptance as well as emphasising aesthetic experience and bodily expression whereas the curriculum for upper secondary school mentions only bodily expression and only in the first mandatory physical education course.
This is an important change for the physical education pedagogy and thinking. Evans (2004), talking about UK, argues that over the last 20 years, physical education has centered attention on pedagogically in terms of just about everything other than which is distinctive and special about its subject matter. As a consequence, PE has become unnaturally disembodied. Evans (2004) thus calls for new curriculums as a possibility to change the prevailing gender-based thinking and bring focus to embodiment. Embodiment, as conceptualised by Krieger (2005), means that we humans are simultaneously social beings and biological organisms. Our bodies are able to tell stories of our existence and our bodies often match our stated accounts. Moreover, our bodies tell stories that we cannot or will tell, either because we are unable, forbidden, or we choose not to tell (Krieger 2005). This is visible for example in the Danish curriculum where forms of embodiments such as body knowledge and body expression, dance and drama are mentioned as central proficiency areas in physical education (Annerstedt 2005). Also another Scandinavian country, Norway, has had embodiment in their curriculum since 2006 (Zoglowek 2012).
Thus, emphasising body experiences in physical education has for long been implicit and hidden. Encouraged by the new curriculum and drawing on her own experiences as a dancer and a physical education teacher, an author of this paper set up a dance course in a Finnish upper secondary school to explore the possibilities of dance in capturing experiences of embodiment in physical education. Dance provides a space where it is possible that one’s personal dance experience shifts from an external activity to personal movement and investigation of one’s lived experiences, and thus results in an embodied way of knowing (Barbour 2011, 58). A course focussing on individual modes of dance is not common in upper secondary school physical education and therefore the students’ experiences were gathered for detailed research. Our research question was: What kind of meanings do the students give to embodiment in their stories of dance?
The data draws from an applied physical education course in a Finnish upper secondary school, organised by the first author of this paper in spring 2017. The course was a dance course that included different dance forms such as hip hop, house, jazz and modern dance. All the dance forms were chosen in the beginning of the course with the students. Participation in this research was voluntary and everyone in the course participated. The teacher was an experienced physical education teacher with specialisation in dance education. The 13 students (1 boy, 12 girls) filled in three different open-ended questionnaires during the six-week course. The questionnaires were anonymous and they were filled in during the lessons to avoid missing papers. The 3-4 questions in each questionnaire considered embodiment in relation to ball games and dance. After reading all the questionnaires for several times in detail, we decided to remove the original questions and organise the data independently of the respondents. In the following preliminary analysis, the students’ descriptions on dance and particularly on embodiment were selected for further analysis. This data we analysed with qualitative data-driven content analysis (Merriam 2009, 178–193). The analysis yielded two main themes, one of which had two subcategories.
The first main theme emerging from the data was about using one’s body to express (one’s) emotions. Students experienced dance as “an important way of expressing myself and relieve my feelings/ spill my guts”. The students used their body to show how they felt, and they found it “relieving”. As a student put it in short, dance was about “[expressing] emotion through movement”. The second theme focused on emotions raised by moving one’s body. The first sub-category comprised students’ stories of how they learned to use one’s body successfully, as success in dance was defined as “[mastery] of a set of moves”. Thus, joy of learning dance played a great role in students’ stories but also single expressions of temporary frustration or incompetence when facing a difficult new movement. The second subcategory was about the positive feelings that the students experienced whilst moving one’s body. It was described as a get-away from everyday life, as it “makes [me] feel free and relaxed”, and because, whilst dancing, “[I] forget about everything else”. Our findings show how dance made students more aware of the connection between their mind and body, and how the students were able to put their experiences of embodiment in words. In their stories the students draw a versatile picture of embodiment: how body is not only a tool for expressing emotions but that it is also involved in a process of creating emotions, and how dance can help in enhancing and strengthening the connection between one’s body and mind. Thus, we suggest that dance, as an individual and easy-to-adapt to one’s skills sport is a highly suitable option in teaching embodiment in physical education. In addition, for the same reasons, dance fits well non-gendered physical education.
Annerstedt, C. 2005. Physical Education and Health in Sweden. In International comparison of physical education: concepts, problems, prospects etc. U. Puhse and M. Gerber, 604-629. Aachen: Meyer & Meyer. Barbour, K. 2011. Dancing Across the Page: Narrative and Embodied Ways of Knowing. Chicago: University of Chicago. Evans, J. 2004. Making a difference? Education and “ability” in physical education. European Physical Education Review 10(1), 95-108. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. 2013. Physical education and Sport at School in Europe. Luxembourg: Publication Office in the European Union. Retrieved from http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/thematic_reports/150EN.pdf Huisman, T. (2004). Liikunnan arviointi peruskoulussa 2003. Yhdeksäsluokkalaisten kunto, liikunta-aktiivisuus ja koululiikuntaan asennoituminen. [An evaluation of physical education learning outcomes in Finnish basic education 2003. Nine grade students fitness, physical activity, and attitudes toward physical education.]. (Oppimistulosten arviointi 1/2004). Retrieved from http://www.oph.fi/download/48961_liikunnan_arviointi_peruskoulussa_2003.pdf Krieger, N. 2005. Embodiment: a conceptual clossary for epidemiology. Journal of Epidemial Community Health 59, 350-355. Lukion opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2015. [National Core Curriculum for General Upper Secondary School. Finnish National Board of Education.] Helsinki: National Board of Education. Merriam, S. B. 2009. Qualitative research. A guide to design and implementation. San Fransisco (CA): Jossey-Bass, 178-193. Palomäki, S., & Heikinaro-Johansson, P. (2011). Liikunnan oppimistulosten seuranta-arviointi perusopetuksessa 2010 [A follow-up evaluation of physical education learning outcomes in Finnish basic education 2010] (Koulutuksen seuranta-raportit 2011/4). Retrieved from http://www.oph.fi/download/131648_Liikunnan_seuranta- arviointi_perusopetuksessa_2010.pdf Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2014. [National Core Curriculum for Basic Education. Finnish National Board of Education.] Helsinki: National Board of Education. Zoglowek, H. 2012. Physical Education in Norway. Journal of Physical Education & Health 1(2), 17-25.
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