Conceptions of Experts and Expertise in Pedagogic Decision-Making: A Scoping Review of Health and Physical Education Research

Year: 2018

Author: Williams, Benjamin, Lee, Jessica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Pedagogic practices are founded on chains of decisions about what to teach, how to teach it and how to evaluate the outcomes of the ensuing interactions. Indeed, many facets of life in contemporary, Western, liberal democracies are understood and represented using the concepts of choice and decision. In academic accounts of pedagogic decision-making, the contribution of expertise and the role of experts has been a recurring concern. For example, research on privatisation in health and physical education has persistently reported the influence of external providers’ expertise on teachers’ decisions to outsource or not. Similarly, studies of the construction of pedagogic discourse have consistently documented the struggles of different groups of experts to have particular kinds of knowledge included in health and physical education policies and curricula.
Despite this conspicuousness, very little health and physical education scholarship has directly interrogated the nature of experts and expertise. The research we present here was motivated by this lacuna and by contemporaneous debates about the proper place of expertise in democratic processes. Our presentation reports on a scoping review of the definition and use of the terms “expert” and “expertise” within Anglophone studies of pedagogic decision-making in health and physical education. We conducted this review using electronic databases, reference lists, key journals and existing networks to identify relevant articles, chapters and monographs. Uses of both terms in discussions of pedagogic decision-making were extracted from the identified sources and analysed semiotically. Analytic concepts from the Studies of Expertise and Experience research program helped us chart how the terms “expert” and “expertise” have been used to denote or connote particular personal attributes and/or specific social processes of attribution. Overall, our scoping review illustrates the dominance of attributional conceptions of expertise and of concerns with questions of legitimacy. These findings are important insofar as they point to the relative exclusion of other conceptions of expertise and of problems other than those of legitimacy, such as the problems of extension and demarcation. We argue that health and physical education scholars need to consider these additional conceptions and problems in order to fully grapple with normative questions about the role of experts and expertise in democratic educational practice.