R. Mulholland, J. Maclean, S. Gray, A. Horrell

UIniversity of Edinburgh (UNITED KINGDOM)
The findings reported in this paper form part of a wider study that explored perceptions of curriculum change within the Scottish context. In 2010 a ‘curriculum for excellence’ which advocates a learner centred approach to education was implemented the length and breadth of Scotland. The intention at this juncture is to provide practitioners with a voice within the context of such change. To achieve this, physical education teachers’ perceptions of this recent curriculum change which saw their ‘subject’ placed firmly within the curricular domain of health and well being (HWB), were explored. More specifically, a mixed methods survey approach was utilised to elicit PE teachers’ perceptions of the alignment of PE with HWB and, secondly to ascertain the extent to which this shift was congruent with their philosophies of PE.

In the first instance 88 secondary school physical education teachers returned completed questionnaires in the months following the implementation of a curriculum for excellence. Respondents were full time physical education teachers working in Scottish secondary schools. Forty-three and 47 per cent of participants were male and female respectively. In total 16 local authorities were represented. A further 17 PE teachers from one local authority participated in follow up semi-structured interviews designed to explore perceptions of curriculum change in more depth.

Findings suggested that over fifty per cent of participants felt there was a need for change in relation to the PE curriculum. The main reasons cited as catalysts for change were ‘obesity/poor health’ and concerns over ‘physical inactivity’. Interestingly, less than three per cent of participants indicated that the need for change was linked to ‘poor attainment in PE’ or ‘lack of relevance of activities taught in PE’. More than 90 per cent of participants agreed that within the domain of health and well being PE was about ‘improving health and fitness’ and ‘developing positive attitudes’. In addition 88 per cent agreed that PE should be about ‘providing enjoyable learning experiences’. Interestingly only 38 and 40 per cent of teachers respectively felt that this alignment with HWB would herald changes to the PE curriculum and how this would be delivered.

A constant comparative analysis of interview data corroborated the questionnaire findings and provided an interesting insight into how PE teachers’ are currently making sense of curriculum changes within the Scottish context. There was clear evidence to indicate that the new home (HWB) of physical education potentially afforded the subject credibility by means of an elevated status while presenting a range of opportunities and challenges. However, a degree of philosophical incongruence was evident in that this particular group of practitioners were not entirely convinced that ‘health’ and ‘well being’ per se should be the raison d’etre de PE.