Activating the curriculum: a socio-ecological action research frame for health and physical education

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    The health and physical education (HPE) profession needs to find alternatives to its individualistic and performative focus if it is to remain relevant and meaningful for all learners. This paper presents a way of framing HPE that helps to shift the focus from the individual as autonomous decision-maker, and goes beyond sport and fitness testing as the main contexts for learning. To do this we present the socio-ecological action research (SEAR) frame for unit development that was co-created and enacted over a six-month period involving dialogue between teachers, students, parents, researchers and community. This paper presents findings from semi-structured interviews, student artefacts and field notes collected as one component of a broader three-phase study which spanned three years. The data describe how generalist primary teachers (n 4) from a small Victorian community and their students (aged 8 10 years) tackled a unit of work that positioned centrally the everyday physical experiences of active school travel (AST). Teachers supported students in exploring barriers to their AST, and developing strategies that would counteract some of the negative perceptions that had limited their AST in the past. The findings suggest that the unit of work evolved from an exploration of AST into a much broader exploration of the whole community. This paper does not provide evidence for an alternative way to view HPE, rather it represents an embryonic exploration of how a SEAR frame might support teachers in applying inquiry-based pedagogies that extend beyond the individual as autonomous decision-maker, and promote opportunities for exploration and understanding of environmental, social and personal factors that influence our health and everyday physically active lives. Despite students being positioned as central actors within the SEAR frame, obtaining genuine student voice throughout the process proved challenging.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)691 - 709
    Number of pages19
    JournalSport, Education and Society
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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