A journey towards value-laden education: understanding teachers’ perceptions of the social domain within the Maltese Physical Education context

2019-06-17T14:01:32Z (GMT) by Ivan Riolo
This study explores the social domain and the applicability of socio-educational content across Physical Education (PE) contexts. PE has been argued to contribute positively to young people’s personal, social and moral development. Moreover, the subject has been projected as a vehicle for bringing across value-laden education and social skills. This research project seeks to add to the existing literature in this area by exploring how physical education teachers in Malta understand socio-educational aspects in PE. It examines the impact of one programme designed to promote social learning through physical activity, the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model (TPSR; Hellison, 1995), by looking into the implementation outcomes of this programme when employed by Maltese PE teachers.
Underpinned by an interpretivist framework, this qualitative study was inspired by empirical evidence garnered from my own teaching and coaching experiences. In particular, it was driven by a recognition that the focus on physicality in PE contexts often outweighs the educational potential embedded in the socio-affective domains as well as the contradiction between the celebrated social learning in current Maltese educational policy (The National Curriculum Framework) and what takes place in practice. Given this background, the first phase of the study explores the physical educators’ knowledge, perceptions and position of the social domain within early secondary PE practices in the Maltese context. In the second phase of the study, a selected group of teachers (N=6), were trained in TPSR (as a value-laden model), which they later implemented over one academic year with students in their first year of secondary education. This, unpredictably, initiated an evolving community of practice (COP) which became embedded and instrumental in the outcomes of this research journey. The coding processes, driven by a Grounded Theory approach, led to the emergent multi-relational core categories. The captured experiences contribute to a deeper understanding of socio-educational aspects across PE as well as the pedagogical attributes of TPSR implemented across a traditionally-oriented PE context. This study contributes to the the very few studies reporting on school-based TPSR implementation. It also captures the participant teachers’ perceptions and reflections across the implementation of TPSR, as an innovative model in Maltese PE contexts, and thus brings forward an original contribution to knowledge by focusing on the process of teacher implementation rather than the outcomes.
Findings across this study project the abstractness, differentiated understanding and application of the social domain in PE, together with the environments this is presented in, as powerful contributors to the de-valuing of socio-educational content. The lived experiences across TPSR implementation embedded within a COP, and the reflective practice enjoyed by the teacher-participants, supported a methodology ideologised by the Maltese NCF (2012). This experience facilitated a pedagogy of emergence and teachable moments and is proposed as a process through which socio-educational content could be brought across in meaningful ways. This thesis, framed within a constructivist approach, provides insights on the essential multi-relational aspects of education, which, together with an emergent community of practice (COP), are proposed as key contributors to meaningful education.