Taking action for social justice in HPE classrooms through explicit critical pedagogies.
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: A focus on equity, democracy and social justice in HPE is pertinent in an era where there are growing concerns about the impact of neoliberal globalisation and precariousness of society (Kirk 2020). Although there is advocacy for teaching approaches in HPE that address issues of social justice, there is limited empirical research of teachers enacting critical pedagogies in HPE classrooms. Purpose: To identify school HPE teaching practices that promote social justice through practical enactment across three different participating countries. Participants and Setting: The investigation involved classroom observations of and post-lesson interviews with 13 purposively selected high school health and physical education teachers from three different countries. A total of 20 HPE lessons were observed. The participants included seven male and six female teachers ranging in age from 25 to 55 years with between 3- and 25-years teaching experience. The setting for data collection was compulsory co-educational practical HPE classes with 13-15-year-old students in four schools in New Zealand, four schools in Sweden and three schools in Norway. Data Collection and Analysis: This study employed Critical Incident Technique (CIT) methodology (Flanagan 1954), involving data collection through exploratory observations and stimulated-recall interviews (Lyle 2003). The classroom observations focused on identifying incidents that appeared to be addressing issues of social justice. The use of a multi-national observer team was a key principle of the study and was based on the proposition that local researchers familiar with context come with taken-for-granted assumptions about teachers’ practices. Data were analysed through a six-phase thematic analysis approach (Braun and Clarke 2013). This involved three stages: individually, collectively by the researchers in each country, and finally through the whole multi-national research team. Findings: The data analysis resulted in three primary themes; (1) relationships, (2) teaching for social cohesion, and (3) explicitly teaching about and acting on social inequities. This paper uses critical pedagogy as a lens to report on the third theme. In this paper, we present three subthemes; (1) Teaching as ‘equity not equality’, (2) promoting marginalised groups (3) and teacher critical reflection as examples of explicit critical pedagogies taking action for social justice in HPE. Conclusions/Implications: Although, the findings presented in this paper are examples of explicit teacher actions that aim to address social inequity, we suggest that teaching for social justice requires teachers to take action on social inequities and also to teach about social injustice to prepare students to become agents for change and act on social inequities themselves, beyond HPE.