The impact of HPE reform on teacher professional identity

Year: 2018

Author: Farnham, Adrian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper presents early findings of recent research carried out with a group of final year pre-service Health & Physical Education (HPE) teachers from both New Zealand and Australia. Informed by the theoretical perspective of post structuralism and the work of Michel Foucault this project sought to investigate how these pre-service teachers come to understand and make meaning of their professional identities across the sub-disciplines which make up HPE.
In more recent times within both countries these sub-disciplines of Health and Physical Education have been brought together and discursively positioned as a unified and integrated teaching curriculum. The intention for Health & Physical Education Teacher Education (HPETE) in both countries has been to prepare recruits to work across this integrated space, to become teachers of both health and physical education. However, the dominance of physical education over health education across both school and teacher education spaces has been reported. (Leahy & McCuaig, 2014; Sinkinson & Burrows, 2011). Furthermore, many recruits attracted to the profession enter with shared discursive histories, exhibiting a strong alignment with physical education, sport and physical activity but with little alignment to aspects of health education (Tinning, 2004). The HPETE space has therefore faced challenges in preparing pre-service teachers often ‘cut from the same cloth’, to traverse these teaching spaces in order to meet the intentions of this supposed integrated curriculum space.
This paper however, reports on the significant progress which has been made through HPETE in preparing these pre-service teachers to exist across both spaces. The identity work that these individuals are doing on themselves shows a move away from the binary towards a more complementary subject positioning. While some of these pre-service teachers pitch a tent in one space or the other it appears that given the opportunity they are content and able to traverse these spaces within schooling contexts. Through HPETE an integrated knowledge base is being developed which appears to afford a level of confidence and security to navigate the pragmatics of schooling where these subjects are often separately positioned spaces. We also see a challenge to the ‘games of truth’ (Foucault, 1984) surrounding the rhetoric of integration, which suggests a unified coexistence of these spaces in terms of positioning and practice and which may act to constrain possibilities for teacher identity. Instead, through resistance of these ‘games of truth’, possibilities for other HPE teacher identities are opened up for the pre-service teacher.