Contexts that matter: Teaching Physical Education during the Covid-19 pandemic in Argentina, Spain and Sweden

Year: 2021

Author: Varea, Valeria

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to widespread changes in the ways Physical Education (PE) is taught. PE has been traditionally considered a practical and ‘hands-on’ subject in schools, which made it a difficult subject to be taught during the pandemic, mainly given that physical distance has been recommended. Different countries have handled the pandemic situation in different ways, and PE teachers had to adapt their teaching according to the circumstances. This paper explores how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected PE in three countries: Argentina, Spain and Sweden.The three countries have adopted different (and sometimes opposite) measures towards the pandemic. For example, Argentina has adopted an extreme lockdown (i.e. 275 days), which has been the longest lockdown in the history. On the contrary, Sweden received worldwide attention for its different approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic, as no lockdown measures were implemented at any point. Spain, on the other hand, adopted a more hybrid position which fluctuated from some moments of lockdown, to some moments of ‘the new normal’ (i.e. face-to-face activities keeping distance and avoiding physical contact).The participants of this study were teachers who taught PE during the pandemic in 2020 in Argentina, Spain and Sweden. Data were generated through online interviews and results suggest that PE was taught differently in each country. While in Argentina and Spain PE classes were conducted online, in Sweden the classes were still delivered face-to-face in compulsory school. The teaching of PE during the pandemic generated a number of challenges and emotions in the teachers, such as guilt, fear, insecurity, sadness and boredom. Changes in the content and context of the subject were implemented, as well as additional roles and responsibilities for the teachers. The pandemic has also brought to light social inequalities according to the context, particularly given the lack of technological resources available to some teachers and students.This study demonstrates the rapidly changing nature of PE and a possible threat in the identity of the subject. Furthermore, we wonder if pre-service teacher education programmes should put more emphasis on better preparing students to teach online, and what would be longer consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects in PE. Understanding how the pandemic has affected PE in different countries might create opportunities for further discussions, possible solutions and some necessary adjustments in the subject.