Girls on fire: alternative movement pedagogies to promote engagement of young women in physical activity

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For a long time the role and lived experiences of the body in cognition and everyday life, let alone learning, has been problematised making the moving body a site of contestation. When tethered to the movement experiences of young women this contest takes on social justice imperatives destined to problematise power relations. In physical education (PE) this presents disciplinary challenges and invites critical contestations alongside opportunities for rethinking the role, impact, effect and affect of the female body in learning to move and associated pedagogies that might facilitate ‘embodied learning’. This paper seeks to extend recent discussions around ‘embodied learning’ and ‘valuing movement’ in PE by exploring the educative potential of ‘in’ movement experiences of a group of young women (n = 39) who attended one of three fire-fighting camps for girls in North America. By using ethnographic methods the paper explores the sensory nature of ‘embodied learning’ in movement moments at the camps in order to inform ‘embodied pedagogies’ with the potential to re-inspire and re-engage young women in PE. Findings suggest that young women conceive of their bodies as a conscious collective organism that simultaneously pays cognitive, physical, and social attention to its environment and the other material and non-material objects in it. This attentiveness occurs by thinking, feeling, sensing and deriving pleasure ‘in’ movement with blurred boundaries between mind-body. In highlighting what ‘embodied learning’ for young women might feel like the paper offers ideas for ‘embodied pedagogies’ and encourages PE practitioners to look outside classrooms for pedagogical inspiration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-735
Number of pages16
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2018


  • Embodied learning
  • Embodied pedagogies
  • Engagement
  • Gender
  • Physical education (PE)
  • Physical education teacher education (PETE)

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