18 SES 02 A, Curriculum and Pedagogy in Health and Physical Education
While many across Europe and beyond have debated the nature and purpose of Physical Education (PE) (Ekberg, 2020; Kirk 2010), it has long been associated with the development of sport skills and physical health. Indeed, despite shifting national priorities and ensuing changes to curricular aims and purposes (Gray et al., 2012; Rossi et al., 2009), little has changed in the way that PE is conceptualised or practiced (Kirk, 2010). There is some evidence of this in the context of the United Kingdom (UK). For example, Herold (2020) found that the new more ‘minimal’ curriculum guidance in England had little impact on current teaching of PE. Furthermore, in a discourse analysis of English policy documents and media articles, Jung, Pope and Kirk (2016) found that sport discourses dominated and engagement in sport was highlighted as being important for dealing with the physical health problems associated with obesity and sedentary lifestyles. There have been relatively recent curriculum developments in the other countries of the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but we know little about how they may have impacted on how PE is conceptualized.
Consequently, the aim of this paper is to compare the different discourses that are shaping contemporary PE provision across the national borders within the UK. To do so, we carried out a deductive content analysis of current key statutory curriculum texts from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to identify those policy discourses that are central to how PE is being conceptualized, creating a foundation from where future dialogue and critical analysis across the UK may be facilitated. We see great value in such an approach to policy analysis; one that creates opportunities for understanding and growth in the hope of generating new possibilities for PE that are muliti-cultural and relevant to the contemporary learner.
The researchers involved in this study brought curriculum expertise from each of the four home nations, offering different perspectives and insights, facilitating multicultural dialogue around curricula. From this position, we carried out a deductive content analysis of key curriculum documents from all four nations within the UK. To make this task manageable and keep a clear focus, we made a conscious decision to select those statutory policy documents that were written to directly inform practitioners about the ways in which their PE curricula might be planned, taught and assessed in schools. These were as follows: • England: Physical education programmes of study: Key Stages 1 and 2, National curriculum in England Physical education programmes of study: Key Stages 3 and 4, National curriculum in England (Department for Education (DfE), 2013) • Northern Ireland: Key Stage 1 and 2 Statutory Requirements for PE; The Statutory Curriculum at Key Stage 3 and the Key Stage 3 Statutory Requirements in Physical Education; The KS4 Physical Education Non-Statutory Guidance (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), 2008) • Scotland: Curriculum for Excellence: Health and Wellbeing - Principles and Practice (Scottish Government, 2009); The Benchmarks for PE (Scottish Government, 2017). • Wales: The New Curriculum for Wales Guidance (Welsh Government, 2020). We developed a framework of analysis draw from existing literature to identify the core discourses that are known to circulate within the field of PE (McEvilly et al., 2014; Evans and Penney, 2008; Jung, Pope and Kirk, 2016; Rossi et al., 2009). This led to the identification of five core discourses: performance, public health, health and wellbeing, pedagogy and citizenship. One member of the team led the overall analysis of all the policies across each of the other UK contexts. Analysis occurred with curricular documents being read and re-read with notes written regarding how PE is positioned within the curriculum, dominant discourses used and possible implications for policy learning. Importantly, within each UK context, the lead analyst co-analysed the policy text with additional member(s) of the research team with links to that country context. The researchers analysed the documents individually, and then together to engage in an open and dialogical process of meaning making and curriculum interpretation (Lambert and Penney, 2020). For each context, conversations converged around how PE was discursively constructed, and the dominant discourses used in those constructions (Willig, 2008).
We found evidence of all core discourses across the four contexts, although some were more dominant than others and featured more heavily in particular contexts. In exploring the similar and different discourses across curricula, three key themes emerged: i) PE, public health, health and wellbeing; ii) performance and; iii) pedagogy and teacher agency. All curricula highlight the role that PE plays in relation to health promotion (public health). None of the curricula are dominated by health discourses, although its presence within the Welsh curriculum is significant. Instead, discourses of performance dominate. Given the practical nature of the subject, it is unsurprising that performance discourses dominate, and few would argue against the centrality of bodily movement and learning as priorities in PE. Nonetheless, it has been suggested that a broader notion of performance is necessary to support ‘other learning’ that centres on the social, interpersonal, cultural and environmental dimensions’ of PE (O’Connor and Penney, 2020, p.18). This is challenging for teachers and requires the development of innovative pedagogies that offer a broad range of learning experiences in/through movement. Currently, this level of pedagogical detail is not provided within any of the curriculum documents and so teachers are left to use their own ‘professional judgement’ to enact the curriculum. In mapping PE curricula across the four nations of the UK, we have identified several similarities and differences in both focus and form. This is a useful foundation for future dialogue, critical analysis and the development of PE pedagogy and curricula that are muliti-cultural and relevant to the contemporary learner.
Ekberg, J-E (2020) Knowledge in the school subject of physical education: a Bernsteinian perspective, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2020.1823954. Evans, J and Penney, D (2008) Levels on the playing field: the social construction of physical ‘ability’ in the physical education curriculum. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 13(1): 31-47. DOI: 10.1080/17408980701345576 Hardley, S, Gray, S and McQuillan, R (2020) A critical discourse analysis of Curriculum for Excellence implementation in four Scottish secondary school case studies. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education: 1–15. DOI: 10.1080/01596 306.2019.171046. Kirk, D (2010) Physical Education Futures. Routledge: UK. Jung, H, Pope, S and Kirk, D (2016) Policy for physical education and school sport in England, 2003–2010: vested interests and dominant discourses. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 21(5): 501-516. DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2015.1050661. Lambert, K and Penney, D (2020) Curriculum interpretation and policy enactment in health and physical education: researching teacher educators as policy actors. Sport, Education and Society 25(4): 378-394. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2019.1613636. O’Connor, J and Penney, D (2020) Informal sport and curriculum futures: An investigation of the knowledge, skills and understandings for participation and the possibilities for physical education. European Physical Education Review: 1–24. DOI:10.1177/1356336X20915937. Petrie, K., and Thompson, K., (forthcoming) H/health Education in Primary Schools: Teachers, Learners and Initiating Change In: J Stirrup and O Hooper (eds). Critical Pedagogies in Physical Education, Physical Activity and Health. UK/Routledge Rossi, T, Tinning, T, McCuaig, L, Sirna, K, and Hunter, L (2009) With the Best of Intentions: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Physical Education Curriculum Materials. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education 28: 75-89. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2017) Quality Physical Education. UNESCO Publishing. Available online: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000231101
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