Critical pedagogy and curriculum transformation in Secondary Health and Physical Education

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    Background: Contemporary scholarship calls for the Health and Physical Education (HPE) profession to pay attention to the practical translation of the critical agenda. Whilst invitations to criticality have featured in HPE scholarship for decades, there have been limited attempts to explore how the critical agenda translates into practice in HPE. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to illuminate the nuance and liminality that characterises the inherently messy and complex process of curriculum transformation and enactment. Methods: We draw on teachers’ perspectives, researcher observations, field notes and planning documents from an ongoing and longitudinal exemplifying case-study. The case-study focuses on one Australian Secondary School within the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. The HPE department is relatively large (n = 20), with six being involved in the first three phases of the ongoing research (planning, pilot of curriculum enactment, and roll-out of curriculum enactment). Findings: The HPE teachers we worked with are becoming more critical practitioners. Three practices which they felt were sustained and had the most impact were: (i) questioning and critical dialogue as a focus in every lesson; (ii) student choice related to assessment; (iii) opportunity for critical reflection and creative thought and movement. The process of transformation could begin because the teachers had a range of resources available to them over time (e.g. clear vision, structural support, and strong leadership). Secondary data from the teachers suggest that student participation has increased from 75% to 100% since the new curriculum was introduced. Discussion: This paper offers a unique insight into the nuances of the liminal space between traditional and transformed ways of seeing and doing HPE. The multi-directional process of transformation was characterised by teachers crossing a threshold into a liminal space where they oscillated between traditional and more critical approaches, at times engaging in mimicry and ‘getting stuck’. Transformation will never be linear, it takes time, and requires sustained resources. That said, our findings suggest that curriculum transformation as part of a broader critical agenda, can transform teachers’ philosophies and practices, as well as increase student participation in HPE. Conclusion: Any attempt to transform curriculum, pedagogy and assessment will be characterised by periods of time where teachers experience tension as their philosophies on HPE are disturbed and potentially shifted, and thus liminality should be both expected and embraced.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)288-302
    Number of pages15
    JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Critical pedagogy
    • pedagogy
    • Curricula
    • Curriculum
    • Health and Physical Education
    • HPE
    • Physical Education
    • PE
    • Sport
    • TPSR
    • Games making
    • assessment for learning
    • Liminality
    • transformation
    • curriculum transformation

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