Big policies and a small world: An analysis of policy problems and solutions in physical education

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This paper uses Ball’s [1998. Big policies/small world: An introduction to international perspectives in education policy. Comparative Education, 34(2), 119–130] policy analysis and Bernstein’s [1990.The structuring of pedagogic discourse. Volume IV class, codes and control. London: Routledge; 2000,Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. Theory, research, critique (Revised ed.). Oxford: Rowman &Littlefield] conceptualisation of boundaries as a basis for critically examining the notion of policy‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ in contemporary physical education. The paper introduces the notions of policy scape and policy magic to explain ways in which thinking about both policy problems and solutions in education is discursively constrained. Analysis of boundaries is presented as a means of revealing and prospectively challenging such constraint. Research findings from projects spanning different international contexts and phases of education are analysed to illustrate complex inter-relationships between a series of knowledge boundaries that variously define the policy and pedagogical directions that can legitimately be pursued in physical education. The paper presents a case for further critical research and policy action in physical education that draws insight from education policy sociology and that examines ways in which equity in physical education is being (re-) framed by broader policy processes and contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-585
Number of pages17
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Policy
  • Curriculum
  • Equity
  • Policyscape
  • Policy magic
  • Assessment
  • Pedagogy
  • Senior secondary physical education
  • Primary physical education

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