The evolving discipline of Physical Education: Where are we now?

Year: 2016

Author: Hickey, Chris, Brown, Trent, Mooney, Amanda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The blurring and merging of discipline boundaries has been part of the physical education landscape since its inception in the school curriculum. While this has by no means been exclusive to physical education, the level of instability and ubiquity experienced in what this subject stands for, and seeks to be, is unparalleled. Drawing on Foucault’s concept of a ‘history of the present’ we begin this paper by briefly recounting the evolution of the discipline of physical education and ways that various discourses, such as, sport, fitness, participation, recreation, skill development and health have impacted on its practice and purpose. While various discourses have had different levels of influence at different times the legacy of their existence continues to be identifiable in the contemporary curriculum, both in Australia and abroad. Most recent here has been the relatively neoteric merging of health and physical education into one curriculum/learning area. Uncertainty remains as to whether this union translates to simply a sharing of curriculum space or a genuine hybridization of these previously distinct sub-disciplines. Against this backdrop, this paper focuses on the way the discipline of physical education is currently understood and engaged within teacher education. Here, we interrogate the existence of a separation between method and discipline studies wherein the former connects with curriculum and pedagogy and the latter with the human movement sciences. Within this orientation the discipline of physical education tends to be defined through the human bio-physical sciences associated with biomechanics, exercise physiology, skill acquisition and so on. Situated within an accreditation framework that demands that teacher training programs effectively cover all aspects of a discipline, what actually comprises the discipline is vitally important to the profession. In this paper we argue that it is timely that we review the discipline of physical education. In making this call we recognize that such a process is bound to be fraught with contestation, as different stakeholders vie to have their interests recognized. While this work will not be easy, it is essential that it is undertaken from within and not left to discretion of policy-makers, under the lobby of self-interested special interest groups. Our call is for the profession (through its leaders and peak bodies) to take the lead and provide much needed direction to defining what is the discipline of physical education circa 2015.