Philosophies, Ideologies and the Practice of Physical Education: Making Sense of the Everyday 'Philosophies' of Physical Education Teachers from a Sociological Perspective
thesisposted on 29.08.2012, 12:43 by Ken Green
This thesis examines what are referred to as the 'philosophies' of physical education (PE) teachers from a sociological perspective. It is primarily concerned with the ideas about PE held by teachers who have the practical task of teaching PE within schools. The study deploys a qualitative methodology grounded in a figurational perspective on the sociology of knowledge. It analyses data from semi-structured interviews conducted with 35 PE teachers at various occupational levels within PE departments in 17 secondary schools in the northwest of England, during June and July, 1998. In the main, teachers' 'philosophies' revolved around a number of recognisable categories of meaning in terms of the ideological themes of 'sport', 'health', 'academic value' and, albeit to a lesser extent, 'education for leisure'. One leitmotif, in particular, emerged from the interview data and that was an overriding concern, on the part of the teachers in the study, with pupils' 'enjoyment' of PE. In order to understand the socio-genesis of PE teachers' everyday or aphoristic `philosophies' and, to a lesser extent, their professed practices, the study focused upon the personal, local and national dimensions of the figurations in which PE teachers were involved in an attempt to identify the more salient influences on the development of their 'philosophies' of PE. These features included the biographical experiences that provide the foundation for teachers' habituses, the day-to-day constraints of classroom management, the expectations of significant others (such as headteachers and parents) as well as the socio-political climate and developments internal (e. g. the desire for professional status) and external (government legislation and policy developments) to the profession. It was apparent that the teachers had a distinctive view of their subject. They brought to their teaching a passion for sport, combined with a range of pragmatic concerns (e. g. regarding class management and the requirements of the National Curriculum for Physical Education); the former led them to place considerable emphasis, in particular, upon enjoyment (particularly of sport) as a central plank of their 'philosophies'. In addition, it was noticeable that, notwithstanding the emergence of a variety of more or less prominent ideologies within the subject-community over the last decade or so (and particularly an ideology of health), PE teachers’ ‘philosophies' continued to be dominated by a sporting ideology. By exploring the social relationships in which PE teachers are involved the study takes tentative steps towards a more adequate understanding of the socio-genesis of PE teachers’ ‘philosophies'. It is argued that if we wish to understand teachers' perceptions regarding the nature and purposes of PE, as well as their preferred practices, then we must study them not as abstract philosophical systems of ideas, but rather as practical, everyday 'philosophies' which provide practical guides to action as well as a justification for those actions.