The transformational wind of theoretical change: An historic and contemporary view of physical education



Publication Details

Jess, M. & Atencio, M. (2017). The transformational wind of theoretical change: An historic and contemporary view of physical education. In M. Thorburn (Ed.), Transformative Learning and Teaching in Physical Education (pp. 46-60). United States: Routledge.


While physical education has been a regular feature of the school curriculum around the world for over a hundred years, the subject area has typically been viewed as sport, games or play and has subsequently had a 'shadowy, marginal existence in education' (OzoliQ.s & Stolz, 2013, p. 888). Since the turn of this century, however, there is some evidence of physical education experiencing a recovery in many Western countries as awareness of the lifelong benefits of physical activity and concerns about pediatric obesity and inactivity permeate public and political arenas (Jess & Thorburn, 2015 ). While we recognise that this revival may help secure physical education's mid-to-long term survival in the school curriculum, we also suggest that future developments are likely to be 'messy' as the subject finds itself increasingly located in congested, contested and largely neoliberal policy spaces. As sport, health and education stakeholders jockey to influence future curriculum trajectory (Petrie & Hunter, 2011), the complexity of this political landscape is likely to be a constant. In particular, with neoliberalism more commonplace globally, the outsourcing of physical education has become increasingly common, particularly in primary schools, with the result that the subject is increasingly being used to meet narrow instrumental goals that many believe will decrease the educational contribution physical education can make in the school setting (e.g. McCullick, 2014). Therefore, while the current state of affairs for physical education may appear to be encouraging, the future health of the subject in schools remains open to some conjecture.

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