Pre-Service Teachers’ understandings of difference and inclusion in Health and Physical Education: An overview

Year: 2016

Author: Alfrey, Laura, Penney, Dawn, O'Connor, Justen, Jeanes, Ruth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As teacher educators we are interested in the ways in which pre-service teachers (PSTs) value the achievements, attitudes and wellbeing of all young people in Health and Physical Education (HPE) and regardless of ability, provide a curriculum that is relevant to each individual. This paper provides a general overview of the research context, existing literature, the methodology and findings related to our work on inclusion in Health and Physical Education. The research emerged from the formation of a new undergraduate program in HPE and its underlying pedagogical intent to produce HPE graduates that would embrace and respond positively to diversity. In order to evidence this intent, a way of measuring understanding was needed. We acknowledge obvious difficulties with ‘measuring’ highly contested and shifting ideas that combine with our own prejudices. Notwithstanding that concepts such as ‘Ability’ are not neutral terms and mean different things to different people, we felt it an important process to at least attempt to capture how ‘ability’, ‘stereotypes’, or a narrow interpretation of curriculum might be considered and pedagogically challenged throughout an undergraduate program. Alongside qualitative approaches, the Diversity and Inclusion Scale for HPE (DISEd-HPE) represented our best efforts to develop a suite of questions that might broadly capture pre-service teacher understandings that have potential to impact inclusion in HPE across a range of areas. Collectively, these questions explored the extent to which PSTs were willing to: a) Acknowledge a range of ‘abilities’ and provide acknowledgement for them; b) embrace a wide curriculum in order to cater for a range of interests and strengths; c) challenge stereotypes; d) understand inclusion as intersectional and founded on difference; e) acknowledge that challenges to inclusive practice exist and; f) understand their role in supporting inclusion. Results suggest that a substantial number of PSTs are willing to challenge threats to inclusion and embrace concepts we associate with diversity. Many students were open to alternatives to performative sporting or particular fitness abilities as representing success in HPE. A pedagogical challenge remains however to progress PSTs who, at least at a surface level in response to simplistic questions, might value the achievements, attitudes and wellbeing of all young people.