Complementing the spoken word: exploring physical education teacher identities through artefacts

Year: 2019

Author: Peters, Jacqui

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Negotiating a professional teacher identity in physical education can be a challenging task. Despite new national and state/territory curricula promoting ideological shifts in the way physical education in schools is understood, positioned and pedagogies enacted, many physical education discourses still position the field and the teacher, in ways that are restrictive to developing diverse identities that may support this new curriculum in schools.

This paper is drawn from a doctoral study that explored the histories and experiences of eight early career teachers of physical education in the negotiation of their professional identities in schools, using Bourdieu’s tools as a lens. Although the strength of each teachers’ habitus was a powerful factor in this development, the research also points to the structure and philosophy of the school and the broader field as significant to limiting or widening the subject positions available to teachers.

This paper will explore one aspect of the study - the artefacts presented by the teachers in helping explain their professional identities. The artefacts were representations of the participants’ constructions of their own subjectivities or a metaphorical discourse. For each participant, the artefacts were symbolic of their pasts, drawn into their present, and spoke to the strength of the habitus – one of Bourdieu’s most commonly used theoretical tools. One artefact was an example of the unreflexive habitus, limited by a narrow sporting discourse; another, a symbol of a struggle for the legitimacy of her capital within the field; while a further artefact positioned one teacher agentically within and beyond the field of PE. Bringing to light the teachers’ varying subjectivities, enabled a glimpse into the negotiations each undertook in becoming a teacher, but also exemplified the wide and narrow subject positions available to teachers of PE, depending on the school in which they taught.