HPE Teachers’ Negotiation of Environmental Health Spaces: Discourse Positions and Embodied Approaches

Year: 2015

Author: Taylor, Nicole

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A National Curriculum in Health and Physical Education (AC-HPE) has recently been developed in Australia. This new curriculum reflects, among other educational priorities, both environmental sensitivities and a commitment to the enhancement of young people’s health and wellbeing (ACARA, 2015). Curriculum acknowledgement of the relationship between the natural world and human health is also a reflection of the environmental health debates dominating many public spaces. Despite the opportunities for HPE educators in Australia to explore current environmental health issues in their teaching, no research to date has considered the ways that HPE teachers’ negotiate these spaces.
In light of such a gap, semi structured interviews were conducted with primary and secondary HPE teachers’ from NSW to trace how they conceptualised environmental health in their personal and professional lives. These interviews were analysed, drawing on a Foucauldian discourse analytic framework. The results of this analysis highlighted the absence of a knowledge tradition that explicitly linked the fields of the environment and health together in HPE. Many of the participants were without the language or resources to easily discuss environmental health issues. Participants who were able to conceptualise environmental health almost exclusively drew on dominant neoliberal and risk discourses. However, these dominant discourses were also found in certain cases to be unstable, with some teachers’ rupturing or challenging their underlying assumptions. Often, these conflicting, and at times contradictory ideas were resultant of ethical dilemmas and embodied encounters with water, sunshine, animals, people and places that were emotional and sensuous.
Our results suggest that corporeal knowledge developed through embodied experiences could be valued in HPE for the contribution it brings to environmental health understandings. Further, the way HPE teachers’ negotiate environmental health spaces holds implications for considering how teachers deliver environmental health education in schools.