Doing emotions in physical education: A symbolic interactionist approach to investigating emotions and movement learning

Year: 2019

Author: Barker, Dean, Nyberg, Gunn, Larsson, Håkan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Emotional dimensions of physical education have garnered a good deal of attention from scholars in recent times. Many scholars claim that emotions significantly affect learning and that positive emotions such as joy and pleasure are necessary for continued participation in movement activities beyond the classroom. Much of the existing literature however, is based on the idea that emotions comprise internal mental states that are retrospectively-oriented. In the current paper, we work with alternative principles that can create new understandings of the affective dimensions of PE and specifically, movement learning. We draw on symbolic interactionist principles, framing emotions as multimodal communicative resources that are performed in social contexts. From this perspective, we demonstrate how emotions, (1) can be investigated as part of the production of broader sequences of pedagogical action, and (2) relate to issues of knowledge, identity, and authority. We present video observational material generated with PE teacher education students as they develop movement capability. We focus on three interactional episodes in which fear, delight and resignation are performed by students interacting with either peers or an observing researcher. In each case, we demonstrate how emotions: affiliate or dis-affiliate the actor with the movement knowledge in focus, index an institutionally-recognizable identity, and influence the subsequent actions of the participants in the interactional sequence. The key thesis developed in the paper is that as symbolic resources, emotions have a wider range of consequences for actors within movement learning environments than is typically investigated. The paper is concluded with reflections on the implications of the approach for practitioners along with a consideration of questions in need of further scientific attention.