Social Justice Pedagogies in HPE Building Relationships, Teaching for Social Cohesion and Addressing Social Inequities

This paper will present and discuss the findings of a three-year international, collaborative research project called Education for Equitable Health Outcomes - The Promise of School Health and Physical Education (EDUHEALTH), a project that was undertaken by Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) researchers from Sweden, Norway and New Zealand. The EDUHEALTH project sought to identify school HPE teaching practices that promote social justice and more equitable outcomes across the three different countries.

A focus on equity, democracy and social justice in HPE is pertinent when education is in an era of risk where, for instance, these ideals are currently far from ideal within neoliberal economic and socio-political democracies. Neoliberal approaches to health and education tend to negatively impact on the most marginalized and/or minority groups in society. Scholars further caution that school HPE curricula based on principles of global neoliberalism have emphasized competitive-based rather than equity-based goals, which, in turn, have led to the marginalization of the social justice project. In fact, research shows that many HPE teachers tend to be insensitive to such social justice issues.

The data reported on in this paper was generated through 20 HPE lesson observations and interviews with 13 HPE teachers across schools in New Zealand, Sweden and Norway. The data collection was based on principles of critical incident technique methodology and stimulated-recall interviews. The interview guide involved a combination of open questions designed to enable the teacher to elaborate on social justice pedagogies and specific questions designed to afford the teacher an opportunity to explain the thinking behind the identified critical incidents. The data, both observation notes and interviews, were analysed following the principles of thematic analysis, informed by our existing knowledge and positioned within the paradigm of critical qualitative research for social justice. In our analysis of the data we drew on theories of social justice pedagogies and transformative pedagogy.

In this paper, we will present and discuss findings related to three themes: (i) relationships, (ii) teaching for social cohesion, (iii) and explicit teaching about, and acting on, social inequities. To conclude, the paper we will address the implications of the EDUHEALTH project for further HPE and PETE practice. We also point to the need for future research examining contexts beyond the specific school subject HPE across Western societies to deepen our understanding of education for a socially just world.