The Challenges and Opportunities of Physical Education within the Context of Health and Wellbeing

The Challenges and Opportunities of Physical Education within the Context of Health and Wellbeing

During the #ReconnectingEERA online conference, that replaced the planned 2020 ECER conference in Glasgow, the Network 18 (Research in Sport Pedagogy) symposium on 27th August 2020 was attended by around seventy delegates from across Europe. The symposium was originally planned as a ‘local context’ contribution within NW18’s programme of activities at the Glasgow conference, where it was intended to showcase just some of the excellent Physical Education (PE) research that is taking place in Scotland. The symposium was organised in collaboration with SERA and their PE network (ScotPERN) in order to build capacity, share ideas and facilitate conversations. Dr Shirley Gray and Dr Rachel Sandford provide an overview of the online symposium, reflect on the discussion generated and consider implications for future research agendas.

Curriculum for Physical Education in Scotland

Scotland offers a rich site for educational research, given that it is now ten years on from the introduction of a new curriculum, the Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Government, 2004). During this time, there have been several curriculum reviews, recommendations and further policy developments, which have presented numerous challenges for teachers. This was particularly evident with the PE curriculum, which in 2010 was relocated from the ‘Expressive Arts’ curriculum to the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ curriculum.

Whereas initially, teachers were supported by just two pages of broad curricular guidelines (Scottish Government, 2009), today they work with twenty-two pages of specific benchmarks (Education Scotland, 2017). These benchmarks indicate what pupils should be able to know and do as they progress through school. The programme for high stakes examinations in the senior years (ages 16-18 years) has also undergone several changes over recent years, and debates remain ongoing as to how they might be further developed in the future.

Research in Physical Education in Scotland

Researchers in PE in Scottish universities have been fascinated by these developments and have spent the last ten years exploring the impact of the new curriculum on teachers’ learning, practice and the learning experiences of students. Specific areas of research have included:

  • exploring the curriculum development process;
  • understanding the nature and role of health and wellbeing within the context of PE;
  • teacher change;
  • in-service and pre-service teacher learning;
  • teaching social and emotional wellbeing;
  • the role of digital technology and social media in how young people learn;
  • gender issues in PE, and;
  • critical pedagogies of affect.

Online Symposium at #ReconnectingEERA

The online symposium consisted of five presentations that exemplified just some of the work that has been done within these areas in recent years. Some of the references for this work can be found below.

The first presentation was by Dr Andrew Horrell from the University of Edinburgh. He presented findings from a study that took place at the time teachers were planning their new curricula in line with policy demands. He highlighted the ways in which regimes of accountability exerted a powerful influence on teachers and had a significant impact on the decisions they made about curriculum design.

The next presentation was by Professor Kirk, Cara Lamb and Dr Eishen Teraoka from the University of Strathclyde. They presented the findings from two studies that explored the pedagogies of PE teachers who paid specific attention to pupils’ learning in the affective domain. The first study explored the perceptions and experiences of teachers who were committed to engaging with pedagogies of affect. In the second study, they highlighted the challenges that teachers faced when attempting to learn and enact an activist intervention specifically designed to support girls’ positive experiences in PE.

Following this, Elaine Wotherspoon from the University of the West of Scotland reported the findings from her study that explored recently graduated PETE students’ levels of preparedness for teaching PE within the Health and Wellbeing curriculum. She discussed the factors that contributed to their feelings of preparedness, but also highlight that, the more they learned ‘on the job’, the less they felt that their PETE experience sufficiently prepared them for their entry into the profession.

In the final presentation, Dr Jess and colleagues from the University of Edinburgh presented their findings from the first phase of a longitudinal study exploring the professional visions of final year PE students. Guided by complexity thinking, they analysed twenty student essays that focussed on a future vision for PE. Results highlighted a diverse range of ideas and a discussion followed about the various factors that teachers will need to negotiate if their vision is to be realised.

In summary, these four presentations provided an insight into just some of the academic work that is being carried out in Scotland within the broad field of physical education. Together, they helped to showcase how the new Scottish curriculum has provided an exciting backdrop for educational research. This research provides academics, working with/alongside teachers,  the opportunity to explore how PE practice might best ensure that young people have positive, healthy and meaningful experiences now and in the future.

In sharing this work and inviting comment, the symposium offered an opportunity for attendees to discuss key issues around health, PE and the curriculum, and make relevant connections to their own contexts. One exciting outcome here is that those delegates in attendance from Wales, a country that is currently going through very similar curriculum reform, sought to continue discussions with the panel beyond the symposium and now plan to organise a further joint symposium in the future.

The online symposium has served not only to raise the profile of educational research in Scotland but also to forge stronger connections between the ScotPERN and NW18 networks and identify opportunities for future collaborative research within Europe and beyond.

If you would like to see these presentations, then you can find them on the SERA ‘connects’ YouTube channel here: 

Dr Shirley Gray

Dr Shirley Gray

Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh

Dr Shirley Gray is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Education at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on issues relating to gender and equality, social and emotional learning, pupil motivation and the professional learning of teachers. 

Dr Rachel Sandford

Dr Rachel Sandford

Senior Lecturer, Loughborough University

Dr Rachel Sandford is a Senior Lecturer in Young People and Sport at Loughborough University, UK. Her research centres on young people’s attitudes towards, experiences of and development in/through sport and physical activity. She has a particular interest in issues around popular culture, embodied identity and positive youth development.

References

Scottish Government (2004) A curriculum for excellence. (Glasgow, Learning and Teaching Scotland).

Scottish Government (2009) Curriculum for excellence: health and wellbeing: experiences and outcomes. (Glasgow, Learning and Teaching Scotland).

Education Scotland (2017). Benchmarks: Physical Education.

Scottish Research References

Carse, N, Jess, M & Keay, J. (2020),Primary Physical Education in a complex world (Part 4): Advocating for the Education in Primary Physical Education‘ Physical Education Matters, pp. 21-23.

Carse, N, McMillan, P, Jess, M, McIntyre, J & Fletcher, T. (2018).Exploring the collaborative in a collective self-study. in D Garbett & A Ovens (eds), Pushing Boundaries and Crossing Borders: Self-Study as a Means for Researching Pedagogy . University of Auckland, pp. 489-496.

Craig, M, Thorburn, M, Mulholland, R, Horrell, A & Jess, M. (2016). ‘Understanding professional issues in physical education: A Scottish insight‘, Scottish Educational Review, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 80-100.

Gray, S., Wright, P., Sievwright, R., & Robertson, S. (2019). Learning to Use Teaching for Personal and Social Responsibility Through Action Research. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education.

Horrell, A., Sproule, J. & Gray, S., (2011). Health and wellbeing: a policy context for physical education in Scotland. Sport, Education and Society. 17(2) 163-180

 

Jess, M, Keay, J & Carse, N. (2019) ‘Primary physical education in a complex world (part 1)‘ Physical Education Matters, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 23-25.

 

Kirk, D., Lamb, C. A., Oliver, K. L., Ewing-Day, R., Fleming, C., Loch, A., & Smedley, V. (2018). Balancing prescription with teacher and pupil agency: spaces for manoeuvre within a pedagogical model for working with adolescent girls. Curriculum Journal29(2), 219-237.

MacIsaac, S., Kelly, J. & Gray (2017). ‘She has like 4000 followers!’: the celebrification of self within school social networks. Journal of Youth Studies.

 

MacLean, J., Mulholland, R., Gray, S. & Horrell, A. (2015) Enabling Curriculum Change in Scotland – PE Teacher and Policy Constructors’ Perceptions compared. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2013.798406.

 

Mcmillan, P 2017, Understanding physical education teachers’ day-to-day practice: Challenging the ‘unfair’ picture. in M Thorburn (ed.), Transformative Learning and Teaching in Physical Education. Routledge Research in Education, Routledge, Abingdon; New York, pp. 159-175.

Roberts, J, Gray, S & Camacho-Miñano, MJ. (2019). ‘Exploring the PE contexts and experiences of girls who challenge gender norms in a progressive secondary school’, Curriculum Studies in Health and Physical Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/25742981.2019.1696688

 

Stewart, S., Gray, S., Kelly, J. & MacIsaac, S. (2019). Investigating the development of masculine identities in physical education. Sport Education and Society.

 

Teraoka, E., Ferreira, H. J., Kirk, D., & Bardid, F. (Accepted/In press). Affective learning in physical education: a systematic review. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education.

 

 

The Effects of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Children’s Education

The Effects of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Children’s Education

The theme of the ECER 2020 conference was Educational Research: (Re)connecting Communities. This focus was initially prompted by the concerns about the potential effects of Brexit and other fractures in communities in Europe. The conference aimed to interrogate the capacity of educational research to address the complexity of the challenges that are encountered in connecting and reconnecting communities in contemporary Europe.

The effects of Covid-19 and the consequent lockdowns that swept across Europe and the world led to further, more extensive, fractures and disconnects across Europe. Schools, universities and workplaces were closed. There were severe restrictions on travel and movement around Europe.

As the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns continued, a number of serious issues arose for children and the continuation of their education in Scotland. For many children and young people, school became an online engagement with teachers. The use of platforms and materials and the frequency of contact varied across Scotland’s 32 local authorities with learning resources provided by schools, media companies and commercial companies.

 

The Effects of Home Schooling

Recent research indicates that the move to learning at home for the majority of pupils led to mixed results for pupils, parents and teachers. Some parents and carers became anxious about adopting a greatly enhanced role in supporting the formal education of their children in the home. The formal education of children is normally assumed, almost exclusively, by highly qualified professional teachers in a school setting. There were not always sufficient resources at home to support formal home learning.

The effects of digital poverty, or digital exclusion, became apparent as awareness grew that some families did not have adequate equipment or even access to the internet to support their children in online learning. Not all members of the teaching profession had the skill set for the sudden move to online teaching and learning and, like many other professionals, had to upskill. Further, all teachers had to spend a substantial amount of time preparing and implementing online learning. There was serious disruption to the exam diet for senior pupils and a highly publicised reconfiguration of assessment practices leading to a controversial recalculation of grades for the major public examinations.

All of this unfolded in the context of serious concerns about rising levels of child poverty pre-COVID-19 and further increases as a result of job losses during lockdown. This situation contributed to a rise in food insecurity for many families and more families now seek free school meals for their children and access food from foodbanks. The effects of the rising levels of child poverty will have consequences for the physical and mental health and well-being of the children and young people.

 

The New Normal

There are other ways to view the outcomes of the lockdowns. As we came out of lockdown and schools resumed, ‘The New Normal’ was a phrase that came into current use. An important aspect of ‘new normal’ is the new knowledge, which will inform any altered concept of normality. New knowledge can emerge through any number of activities, but typically, it is the result of sustained engagement with others, materials and contexts during which we come to assimilate the nuanced experiences and perspectives of others in a new way.

 

Positive Effects of the Lockdown for Learners

Children and young people will have had a range of experiences of lockdown. As a result, they will have developed new knowledge about themselves as learners. There are likely to be pupils who will have experienced ‘schoolwork’ differently in a positive way; who have engaged with their learning at their own pace and on their own terms. Some will have enjoyed working alone, whilst others might have benefited from engagement with siblings and parents.

Anecdotally, we have probably all heard of examples of children and young people learning new things and developing skills and interests not directly connected to schoolwork. They have already blended their own ways of organising and engaging with their learning, their own interests and other people with whom they have interacted during this period.

The likelihood is that all young people will have learned new things and have a stronger sense of themselves as people and learners. It is important that this new knowledge is sought out, recognised and built on as our children, young people and schools return. We are in a unique situation and should take the opportunity to engage children’s and young people’s new skills, newly-realised abilities and personal interests. We should blend these insights into practice and pedagogy in schools as we simultaneously explore new ways to allow them to demonstrate their learning.

 

Positive Effects of the Lockdown for Teachers

Teachers will have learned new things about themselves, their colleagues and the children and young people with whom they work and the relationships among them. Teachers know that young people’s emotional experience of learning is as important as their cognitive experience. The current situation presents a unique stimulus for teachers to make sense of the relationships they have with each of their pupils.

Teachers already see their pupils as learners and not simply people who have to be taught. They will already be aware of pupils’ skills abilities and interests, and the new experiences which young people bring to school could be used to enhance and enrich the learning of all young people. Teachers’ interactions with pupils during lockdown will have enriched their own sense of themselves as teachers and their place in the lives of their charges. This new knowledge will help reinforce any new sense that pupils have of themselves as learners and teachers have of themselves as teachers.

EERA also has a role to play, and the recent online events had a significant role in reconnecting our research communities. The events provided new spaces in which education was explored, theorised and researched from the perspectives of all member associations and networks. EERA also has a role in generating the new knowledge that will increasingly and relentlessly nudge forward our understanding of education.

 

Professor Stephen J. McKinney

Professor Stephen J. McKinney

Professor, School of Education, University of Glasgow

Stephen J. McKinney is a Professor in the School of Education, University of Glasgow. He leads the research and teaching group, Pedagogy, Praxis and Faith. He is the past President of the Scottish Educational Research Association. He is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Beliefs and Values, Improving Schools, the Scottish Educational Review. He is a visiting professor in Catholic Education at Newman University, an Associate of the Irish Institute for Catholic Studies and on the steering group for the Network for Researchers in Catholic Education. He is a member of the European Educational Research Association Council. He is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the London School of Management Education. His research interests include Catholic schools and faith schools, the impact of poverty on education and education and social justice and he has published widely on all of these topics.

Dr George Head

Dr George Head

Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education, University of Glasgow

George Head is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education, University of Glasgow, Scotland. George is a past-president of the Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA) and has represented the association on the European Educational Research Association (EERA) Council and served as Senior Mentor to the EERA Emerging Researchers Group. He is a visiting professor at Newman University, Birmingham. His areas of academic interest include Inclusive Education and the learning and teaching of young people whose behaviour schools find difficult. George was a member of the Local Organising Committee for ECER 2020 which was scheduled to take place in Glasgow