18 SES 12 B, Studying Practices within Physical Education
Research question and theoretical perspective:The research literature in Physical Education (PE) is placing a growing focus on the need for research that can illuminate what pupils’ learn in PE, and how we can develop PE to become more relevant as a learning subject. In PE research, the focus has often been on the content (curriculum) and the teaching of the subject (Kirk et al., 2006), and relatively few empirical studies have covered what students learn in PE practice and how they do this (Quennerstedt et al., 2014).
With the goal of facilitating more and better learning in PE, various pedagogical models, such as sport education and teaching social and personal responsility, have been developed (Dyson, Kulinna, & Metzler, 2016). The Activist approach to PE is one of the more recent developed models (Oliver & Kirk, 2015). The approach was originally developed to meet the needs of girls that disengaged from PE, but has later been applied on all kind of pupils, including boys in all-boys settings (Luguetti et al., 2017).
Maintaining that knowledge is produced both by collaboration and by action, the activist approach holds that merely documenting current reality is no longer sufficient to understand how to better engage students in PE. Accordingly, activist researchers deliberately focus on studying not current realities, but future possibilities, by collaborating with participants to find room for change. These scholars work from the belief that social transformation begins at the micro level in localized contexts (Oliver and Kirk 2015, 2). The activist research approach to PE is based on four critical elements: a student-centred pedagogy, critical study of embodiment, inquiry-based PE centred in action, and listening and responding to girls over time (Oliver and Kirk 2015, 2016).
The purpose of this paper is to study how a new pedagogical model in PE (the Activist approach) can contribute to pupils’ embodied learning.
Embodiment is one of the critical elements of the activist approach to physical education. Both in earlier research on this model (e.g. Oliver & Lalik, 2004) and in other critical research on embodiment in PE (e.g. Azzarito & Katzew, 2010) the object of investigation has been how different discursive constructs relating to body image, PE, movement and exercise are embodied by students. However, the concept embodiment take on different meanings both between and within scholarly disciplines (Cheville, 2005). In addition to the critical, sociological approach commonly used in PE research, embodiment has also been given a more phenomenological understanding for instance in literature seeking to justify the inclusion of PE into the school curriculum (e.g. Stolz, 2014). Also, the original work of Whitehead on physical literacy has employed a phenomenological understanding of embodiment. The phenomenological approach emphasizes the subjective, lived experience of the body. There is, however, limited empirical research concerning embodiment from a phenomenological perspective in PE (Standal & Engelsrud, 2013).
These two perspectives on embodied learning and embodiment (i.e. the discursive and the lived) may been seen as either competing or as complementary. The present research, however, seeks to uncover embodied learning and embodiment from both of the perspectives.
Method: The project was conducted in co-ed PE among 15-year-old students (10th graders) in Norway in collaboration with teachers and students at their high school. The research group followed one class of 27 students during one semester of PE. The class comprised 13 girls and 14 boys. The majority of the students had a white, middle-class background although approximately 25% had parents with immigrant backgrounds from countries such as Sri Lanka, Chile, the Philippines, and Vietnam. All of the students (except one) were fluent in Norwegian, and ethnic background did not appear to be an important source of social division among the students. One of the girls was reluctant to participate in PE and had rarely participated since 8th grade. The PE teacher participated as co-researchers in the study. Based on the teacher’s description of the class before we arrived, the class appeared to struggle with some of the typical challenges (Fagrell, Larsson, and Redelius 2012). The boys appeared to dominate the PE class, the teacher struggled to solve this problem, and some of the girls were disengaged from PE. The researchers planned, taught and evaluated the process according to the critical elements of activist research in PE (Oliver & Kirk, 2015; 2016). The four principles for the activist approach guided the design of our project. A student-centred pedagogy implies that we worked closely with the students, listened to their experiences, and allowed them influence over the PE curriculum. Creating spaces in the curriculum for girls to critically study their embodiment was accomplished by choosing “body awareness” as thematic focus during the semester. Various sources are used as data (‘get to know you better’ sheets, group interviews, observations, students’ logs, self-assessment forms, and individual interviews). The group interviews and the individual interviews followed an interview guide, were conducted by all authors, and averaged 45 minutes each. The interviews were all tape recorded and transcribed in their entirety. All of the researchers (including the PE teacher) were involved in the observations. The data were analysed according to Kvale and Brinkmann’s (2009) ‘meaning coding’ technique. This implies that the analyses of the data focuses on interpretation of meaning. The coding was data-driven, which means that we started out without codes and developed them by readings of the material.
Expected outcomes/results: It is our main finding in this study that involving students in the curriculum making process is of great importance to their experiences of embodied learning in PE. Particularly, this seems important for those students that dislike PE. Our study show that to develop “body awareness” as a thematic unit in PE, and using log-writing were essential approaches to understand students’ embodied learning. An important finding in our study is that pupils’ need to be able to see the learning benefits beyond school. Providing students with opportunities to take ownership of their learning by being involved in making choices and reflecting on their experiences may strengthen the personal significance and the embodied learning experience in PE. The findings show that the pupils’ had various knowledge about how to be sensitive and listen to their bodies, as well as various skills in expressing bodily experiences. The study illuminate various forms of embodied learning in PE. It is one of our main finding that embodied learning in PE are closely linked to pupils’ identity work.
References Azzarito, L., and A. Katzew. 2010. "Performing Identities in Physical Education." Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 81 (1): 25–37. doi:10.1080/02701367.2010.10599625. Cheville, J. 2005. Confronting the problem of embodiment. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 18(1), 85-107. Dyson, B., Kulinna, P., & Metzler, M. 2016. Introduction to the Special Issue: Models Based Practice in Physical Education. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 35(4), 297-298. doi:10.1123/jtpe.2016-0203 Fagrell, B., H. Larsson, and K. Redelius. 2012. "The Game within the Game: Girls' Underperforming Position in Physical Education." Gender and Education 24 (1): 101–118. doi:10.1080/09540253.2011.582032. Kirk, D, Macdonald, D, O’Sullivan, M (eds) (2006) The Handbook of Physical Education. London: Routledge. Kvale, S., and S. Brinkmann. 2009. Interviews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing. 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Luguetti, C., K. L. Oliver, L. E. P. B. T. Dantas, and D. Kirk. 2017. "‘The Life of Crime does Not Pay; Stop and Think!’: The Process of Co-Constructing a Prototype Pedagogical Model of Sport for Working with Youth from Socially Vulnerable Backgrounds." Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 22 (4): 329–348. doi:10.1080/17408989.2016.1203887. Oliver, K. L., and D. Kirk. 2015. Girls, Gender and Physical Education: An Activist Approach. London, UK: Routledge. Oliver, K. L., and D. Kirk. 2016. "Towards an Activist Approach to Research and Advocacy for Girls and Physical Education." Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 21 (3): 313–327. doi:10.1080/17408989.2014.895803. Oliver, K. L., and R. Lalik. 2004. "Critical Inquiry on the Body in Girls’ Physical Education Classes: A Critical Post-structural Perspective." Journal of Teaching in Physical Education 23 (2): 162–195. doi:10.1123/jtpe.23.2.162. Standal, ÿ. F., & Engelsrud, G. 2013. Researching embodiment in movement contexts: a phenomenological approach. Sport, Education and Society, 18(2), 154-166. Stolz, S. 2014. The philosophy of physical education. A new perspective. London, UK: Routledge. Quennerstedt, M., C. Annerstedt, D. Barker, I. Karlefors, H. Larsson, K. Redelius, and M. Öhman. 2014. "What Did They Learn in School Today? A Method for Exploring Aspects of Learning in Physical Education." European Physical Education Review 20 (2): 282–302. doi:10.1177/1356336x14524864.
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