18 SES 11 A, Affect and Embodiment within Physical Education
Movement learning has become a prominent issue in recent sport pedagogy research (e.g. Barker, Bergentoft and Nyberg, 2017; Whitehead, 2010). Much of this recent work includes a particular concern about new perspectives of movement learning (Larsson, 2021). The turn towards new perspectives is partly spurred by views that conventional perspectives fail to explain movement learning from a broader perspective (e.g., Aggerholm, 2016; Fusche Moe, 2004). Moreover, conventional perspectives, which often relate to explicit or implicit standards, tend to exclude non-normative forms of movements, bodies, abilities and groups of people (e.g., Evans, 2004; Larsson and Quennerstedt, 2012; Tidén, Redelius and Lundvall, 2017).
In a series of recent articles (Barker, Nyberg and Larsson, 2019 and 2020; Larsson, Nyberg and Barker, 2020; Nyberg, Barker and Larsson, 2020), we have attempted to develop a new approach to understanding movement learning called kinesio-cultural exploration. Kinesio-cultural exploration is ‘the process of developing movement capability as “discerning” the aspects of experience involved in moving in particular ways’ (Barker, Bergentoft, and Nyberg 2017, p. 427). In terms of learning, rather than metaphorically ‘climbing a ladder’ or ‘hitting a target’, kinesio-cultural exploration means exploring movement landscapes, or kinescapes, which “have their own features that need to be appreciated along with rules that relate to [movements]. These rules are not only mechanical but also cultural as they encompass traditions and expectations” (Barker, Nyberg and Larsson, forthcoming, p. 9). In this way, we hope to offer an understanding of movement learning and knowing that is not limited to ‘step-by-step’ approaches and narrow standards, and which can function inclusively.
To develop further our exploration of movement learning as kinesiocultural exploration, we turn to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and his rhizomatic approach to learning. According to Cole (2016, p. 1), “Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) provides an integrated theorization of learning without having written specifically on education”. According to Semetsky (2009, p. 443), another educational researcher who draws on Deleuze’s philosophy, this approach to learning can be framed as a “’pedagogy of the concept’ that posited a triadic relation encompassing percepts, affects and concepts”, where “we need all three to get things moving” (Deleuze, 1995, p. 165; original emphasis). Concepts are about the learner’s embodied yet provisional understanding of what is to be learnt; affects relate to desire, it propels events into becoming; and percepts are what is in the focus of the learner’s attention.
Empirically, the presentation is based on a case study, where we explore the student Zack’s rather amazing journey into what we have termed the kinescape of unicycling. The purpose of the presentation is to explore the student’s journey into the kinescape of unicycling with the aid of Deleuzian theorising. We believe that unknowingly, Zack showed us (rather than told us) what Deleuze means by learning.
Zack was one of 25 physical education teacher education (PETE) students who were invited to learn to unicycle while we documented the process. The learning took place in a five two-hour session module that was based on the idea of kinesio-cultural exploration. Particular interest was paid to how the students approached the task of learning to unicycle, their focus of attention, and what unicycling, or learning to unicycle, meant according to their experience. The practising took place in a regular gym hall, where the students worked in groups of two to three. There was a minimal amount of instruction from the part of the researchers. Practise was interspersed with moments where the students documented their reflections of their learning processes on their smartphones. We encouraged the students to reflect on, for example, their approach to the task, their attentional focus, and their subjective meanings of unicycling. Additionally, we asked them to note what they found easy or difficult, and the things that they thought had helped them in their learning. They could also include notes about their mood during the sessions. The ethnography-inspired (Nova 2014) data generation included participant-observations (Angrosino 2005) and ethnographic-type conversations (Spradley 1979). Throughout the practise sessions, two researchers wore GoPro cameras mounted on their chests. Taken together, fieldnotes and approximately 40 hours of video films offered a useful means to provide thick descriptions of the learning processes. The article focuses on Zack’s activities during the two first practise sessions. There was ample video footage of him both practising and talking to peers. Additionally, he was systematic about noting his reflections during the sessions. When asked to respond to our questions during the practise, he often struggled with describing his learning process in words. He seemed to prefer to show us with the help of the unicycle. Thus, the analysis is based mainly on video observations of Zack’s practise, his conversations with peers and his written notes, and only marginally on interviews with him during the sessions. Analytically, rather than ‘applying’ the Deleuzian framework on our data, we have aspired to follow Mazzei and McCoy’s (2010) suggestion to ‘think with Deleuze’. In the case of this particular analysis, we present the findings based on the idea that Zack is actually showing us what a rhizomatic understanding of learning could mean as he learns to unicycle.
Affects: It soon became clear that Zack had a strong desire to learn to unicycle. He differed clearly from some of his peers regarding his approach to the endeavour. Rather than focusing on the learning process itself, he was exhilarated by what he would be able to do. Rather than (the) learning (process), his eagerness was directed to what he would be able to do further on. Concepts: Already at the outset, Zack had clear ideas about what it would mean to (learn to) unicycle. Initially, he focused a lot on ‘balance’. However, during the practice, he managed to transform his concept of unicycling, either by exchanging parts of his concept (e.g., that unicycling is not the same as ordinary cycling), or to include new aspects into it (e.g., forward momentum). Percepts: Throughout the module, Zack was attentive to what happened when he mounted the unicycle. His rich experience from a boardculture enabled him to effectively decipher unicycling. Moreover, both his intrepidity and his self-description as an ‘acrobatic’ person was helpful in his endeavour to learn to unicycle. Ultimately, it is paramount to understand affects, concepts and percepts as integral in Zack’s practising. Since they act in symbiosis, if one aspect changes, the other two aspects change too. We believe that Zack was successful not just because he was a ‘motoric person’. Rather, he was ‘motoric’ because he knew how to use the tools that his experiences of boardculture offered him. In this sense, one might say that to Zack, learning to unicycle based on kinesio-cultural exploration was serendipitous. Obviously, Zack's way of learning to unicycle cannot be seen as universal, it means that he managed to successfully draw lines between affects, concepts and percepts when practising this particular object of learning (unicycling) using this particular approach (kinesiocultural exploration).
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