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Navigating cultures of performativity: influences on the work, professionalism and identities of physical education teachers

posted on 26.07.2012 by Erin Miniotis
A growing body of research suggests that a cultural shift in education has taken place, where teachers work is being affected by the terrors of performativity (Ball, 2003, p. 215). According to research within the sociology of education field, within this culture what it means to be a teacher or to teach is based on performance criteria, surveillance, judgments and a lack of autonomy or personal choice. Physical education is a particularly interesting area of education through which this shifting culture can be explored as various competing discourses are drawn upon to enhance the field and, indeed, physical education has become somewhat of a contested terrain in terms of its purpose, definition and focus as it is at the hub of various competing interest groups (Keech, 2003). Drawing on a poststructural theoretical framework which views discourses as perpetuated by social structures and practices and implicated in teachers understandings of teaching and learning practices, this research considers how such discourses may impact on physical education teachers work, professionalism and identities and how they can be deconstructed to provide alternate readings and shifting subject positions. It explores teachers multiple position(ing)s within educational reforms and initiatives, illustrating how they interact with performative neo-liberal discourses to push teachers behaviours towards greater performance and regulation and considers how performativity, rather than narrowing the inequality gap, may be leading towards increased inequalities amongst pupils learning experiences (Ball, 2003; Youdell, 2004). The narratives of these teachers illustrate that for many of these physical education teachers, performativity was seen to give credence to the subject and increase its status within schools, while for others the shifting culture towards greater measurement and accountability was experienced as overwhelming. Through a clear awareness of the marginal status of physical education within schools these teachers negotiated different subject positions simultaneously. They reported features of performativity as constraining and challenging, yet also as simultaneously enabling and rewarding since they experienced performativity as enhancing their sense of professionalism and the status of their subject.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Erin Miniotis

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Closed access. If you are the author of this thesis and would like to make it available on open access please contact the library. A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




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