Loughborough University
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Physical education teachers’ uses of social media in their teaching of physical activity for health

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posted on 2023-05-30, 13:06 authored by Zac Parris

This research addresses longstanding calls to investigate social media and its potential to support teachers’ pedagogy, specifically in health-related Physical Education (PE) (Kirk, 2019; Goodyear & Armour, 2019). Although a growing body of literature has explored social media and their impact on health knowledge, behaviours and attitudes, the work to date has tended to focus on young people’s use of these platforms (e.g., Goodyear et al, 2018). Whilst some literature has focussed on teachers' use of these platforms for professional development purposes (e.g., Goodyear et al, 2014; Casey et al, 2017; Harvey & Carpenter, 2020), this is somewhat scant in the area of health. Furthermore, previous research has been critiqued for focusing on the risks/and or limitations associated with these platforms. 

In light of the above, the purpose of this study was to explore PE teachers’ uses of social media in their teaching of physical activity for health (PAH). Gaining this insight is important, given the growing concerns surrounding young people’s health and physical activity status, and PE’s current struggles in successfully delivering health, fitness and physical activity goals. Couple this with the rapid increase in social media use across all sectors of modern society, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, and it would seem timely to investigate how these sites support teaching and learning in PAH.

This study used appreciative inquiry as its philosophical framework to identify and explore what gives life to PE teachers' uses of social media in their teaching of PAH. At a methodological level, the study utilised grounded theory to unearth and zoom in on critical issues identified by PE teachers. Eighty-two secondary school PE teachers completed an online survey, and twenty-six agreed to participate in online interviews and a digital task. The survey helped develop an understanding of PE teachers use of social media for PAH, while the online interviews and digital task provided the research with living examples.

The findings reveal that many PE teachers used social media to inform their teaching of PAH, gathering practical activities and exam resources from various sources to support their pupils’ learning, using comments, likes and followers as well as their sports science backgrounds to help identify and evaluate such content. The PE teachers valued social media because it saved them time and encouraged them to reflect on their practices. Despite this, and whilst the level varied between different types of users, most teachers were cautious about the information gathered from these platforms. Teachers perceived social media to have influenced their teaching of PAH in several ways. For example, some teachers reported that social media had helped them keep up to date, boosting their pupils engagement in PAH. Similarly, some teachers suggested that these platforms allowed them to access the latest PAH information, thereby broadening their understanding of PAH and how to promote it in the curriculum. 

In conclusion, the research makes a number of recommendations for practice, for example, for PE teachers to receive more positively framed teacher education and ongoing professional development in the use of social media. The strengths based approach to this research has extended the fields understanding in relation to PE teachers’ uses of social media, unsettling repeated messages and accepted meanings, thereby contributing new knowledge to the area.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

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© Zac Parris

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Ash Casey ; Lorraine Cale

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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