Primary School Physical Education: What Matters and to Whom?

Year: 2019

Author: Scott, Emily

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

What is this thing that we call physical education? How is it framed, justified and understood historically, culturally, politically, publicly, professionally and personally? In what ways does learning in, through and about movement shift depending on whose gym shoes you are standing in? Who are the actors in this performance that is carried out within schools each day across our country? What ideals does it espouse and for what purposes does it exist? What does it promise and what does it deliver? How do we know? Who could or should we ask in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of this complex social phenomenon? The purpose of this research is to explore the unique experiences of those involved in physical education (PE) in a New Zealand primary school, in an effort to better understand the rich context in which ‘it’ and ‘they’ are constituted. Given the intense interest in primary school PE by government and other outside agencies and the various critiques of these (Burrows, Petrie, & Cosgriff, 2015; Petrie, Penney, & Fellows, 2014; Powell & Fitzpatrick, 2015), this project offers a rare insight into the complexities of teaching and learning in PE within broader socio-political terrains.This presentation will touch on the challenges of working collaboratively with teachers and students on areas of shared concern as they seek to make adjustments in the day-to-day practices of PE. This type of research project is essential for building a richer picture of what actuallyhappens for students and their teachers in this area of the curriculum. It looks beneath the taken-for-granted assumptions of what PE is or should be; beyond the rhetoric of health (and body size) being as simple as eating well and exercising enough and acknowledges the sway of wider social, political and popular influences on what comes to matter in PE.