Bodies in science education

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftAbstraktForskningpeer review


General description on research questions, objectives and theoretical framework In August 2014, a new Danish school reform was implemented in primary and secondary schools, which required schools to increase exercise and movement activities for the benefit of student’s health, well-being and learning. The reform mandated an average of 45 minutes of exercise and movement for all students every day. This meant that, apart from physical education (PE), teachers had to integrate movement activities into academic and creative subjects, as brain breaks, energizers, or as active teaching where physical activities support content learning. Research supports the integration of physical activity, exercise and movement in schools, showing positive correlations between physical activity and academic performance (Esteban-Cornejo, Tejero-Gonzalez, Sallis, & Veiga, 2015; Rasberry et al., 2011), health (van Sluijs, McMinn, & Griffin, 2007), and psychological factors such as well-being, enjoyment and motivation (Howie, Newman-Norlund, & Pate, 2014; Käll, Malmgren, Olsson, Lindén, & Nilsson, 2015). While there is research showing the merits of exercise and movement at school, there is little research that considers a contextual and situated perspective of embodied learning and what this means for subjects other than PE. This is the case with science education, where an embodied perspective is still novel (Almqvist & Quennerstedt, 2015), with only a few notable exceptions. Such exceptions are Orlander and Wickman (2011) who examines how students’ own bodies become important for the direction meaning making take and what they are afforded to learn in an encounter with animal bodies in biology, and Hwang and Roth (2011) who show how learning scientific and mathematical objects is rooted in the lived body. Students’ bodies in science education is the focus of this presentation that examine examples where the body is integrated explicitly into activities as part of the learning experience. Theoretically this interest is underpinned by how the body is understood as a lived body (Merleau-Ponty, 2012) where perception and experience is rooted in an embodied being in the world. The way in which people come to know the world is grounded in the body that with its permanency places people in the world, and through movement grants people the possibility of experience, which is embedded in the body as habits that becomes ways of knowing the world. The lived body is in other words, the ‘subject of everything that we do and experience’ (Bengtsson, 2013, p. 6), which means that if something happens to the body, then the perception of the world changes correspondingly. Building on this understanding, it is explored when students’ are asked to engage in learning activities with their bodies, how they perceive and experience the world, or in this case, the particular science activity. Science education is in this study understood as a stage on which the students perform. As such, the study draws on Goffman’s (1959) stage metaphor to understand how the student (actor) performs and adheres to conventions that have meaning to the other students (the audience). Merging the theoretical ideas put forward by Goffman and Merleau-Ponty grants that performance of students has an embodied quality, including investigating how performance is a way of making sense of the world and rooted in the body. Performance becomes something that is at once social, bodily, emotional, and habitual. Methods and methodology To investigate this social phenomenon, the study followed a Year 8 physics class through a course on light and sound. The class is part of a school, which adopted a ‘movement-policy’ mandating all teachers to integrate exercise and movement into all subjects. Using video, the study sought to capture students’ embodied interactions as they unfolded in teaching and learning situations that were planned with an embodied perspective in mind. Three double lessons of 90 minutes were recorded during which the camera followed a different group each day, focusing on the core activities related to the task they were instructed to carry out. Video was selected as a data collection tool since it provides opportunities for re-viewing and close analysis of interactions, enabling watching connections through actions that are hidden to the naked eye (Derry et al., 2010). The methodological approach to video analysis adopted in the study, is influenced by videography (Knoblauch, Tuma, & Schnettler, 2015). Videography is a specific method for working with video, which links video analysis with enthnography for an interpretive analysis of communicative actions. In videography there is a recognition that actions are always directed at someone who needs to understand them in a particular context and situation. Therefore ethnographic knowledge is perceived as a central resource to understand and interpret video, which meant supplementing video with the field notes from participant observations, group interviews, video stimulated-recall interviews, and student and teacher productions (pictures of completed assignment sheets, photos and films produced by the students). Video records were analysed for events where students’ bodies appeared significant in relation to the task (science activity) they were engaged in. These events were analysed using a ‘layered’ approach (Kristensen, 2018), taking note of how the students’ bodies occupied the space they were situated in, what they said, the environment they were placed in, as well as their re-narrated experiences of the event. Utilising this approach, provided insights into how the students’ bodies were situated in the different learning activities, how they made sense of the activities through embodied actions, and the students’ struggles of trusting and defining the role of their bodies as part of a science activity. Results The analysis points to several ways in which the body became central to knowing and learning science. Two key findings are identified: The environment shapes students’ embodied sense-making processes. The analysis showed that tasks were picked up and carried out in different manners, depending on whether the learning activity took place in- or outside the classroom. The students’ bodies mirrored bodies in science as inquiring and researching (Almqvist & Quennerstedt, 2015) when they were inside the classroom. When situated outside the classroom, different body practices emerged through interactions and performances that had to do with ideals favored in sports, such as speed, health and fitness. Analysis showed that this was not purely a function of the space, but also expressions of the students’ relation to the space they were situated in and the (embodied) cultures associated with that space. Embodied learning activities prompted an inner- and outer body-consciousness. Inner body consciousness denote an awareness of and reflexive stance towards the stimuli received during a task, which became apparent when students’ used their senses to experience a physical phenomenon, where body memory and embodied language became central resources for knowing science. Outer body consciousness denote an awareness of the socially and culturally inscribed body, which was detected when students’ became aware of their own body’s capital (Goffman, 1959) and the bodily performances of others. Analysis showed that both kinds of consciousness were present in the activities, but that students worked more focused with their task when expressions of inner body consciousness dominated their interactions. The study concludes that the ideal of the body as researching and inquiring in science education cannot be taken for granted. Movement activities are made sense of and grasped differently by different students, and thus has the potential to both act as an including and excluding pedagogical tool.
Publikationsdatosep. 2018
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2018
BegivenhedECER 2018: Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research? - Free University Bolzano, Bolzano, Italien
Varighed: 4 sep. 20187 sep. 2018


KonferenceECER 2018
LokationFree University Bolzano