Doing physical activity – not learning

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftAbstraktForskningpeer review



In recent years there have been a raising critique concerning PE as a subject which is more concerned with keeping pupils physically active than insuring that they learn something (Annerstedt, 2008). In Denmark, this issue has been actualized in a new sense. In 2014, a new school reform with 45 minutes of daily physical activity was introduced to enhance the pupils’ health, well-being and learning capabilities. Instead of focusing on learning bodily skills, physical activities has become an instrument to improve learning in the academic subjects. Physical activities are not the end but reduced to means. From a child perspective children are viewed as becomings instead of beings (James, Jenks & Prout, 1998). Instead of focusing on the now, the focus is pointing against the future.

Method and discussion

Based on short-term ethnographical fieldwork and pedagogical literature (e.g. Biesta, 2010; Standal, 2015) I will argue that the focus on learning outcome and effects on physical activity has gone too far in order to reach the objectives. If the notion of ‘keeping pupils physically active’ is understood as a representation of the core quality of physical activity, it seems to be crucial to keep the pedagogical practice in mind. Like pedagogical literature on play have mentioned, play can be a useful pedagogical tool as long as the essence of play or the nerve of play is maintained. The same issue seems to be relevant for physical activity.

Results and conclusions

In contrast to Annerstedt’s (2008) analysis of PE, it seems crucial that if physical activities in schools should contribute to at least well-being and learning, the teaching content (the doing) and strategies must prioritize and engaging pupils in the inherent qualities of physical education (Kretchmar, 2000).


Annerstedt, C. (2008). Physical education in Scandinavia with a focus on Sweden: a comparative perspective. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 13(4), 303–318. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010). Why “What Works” Still Won’t Work: From Evidence-Based Education to Value-Based Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29, 491–503. James, A., Jenks, C., & Prout, A. (1998). Theorizing Childhood. Cambridge: Polity Press.Kretchmar, S. R. (2000). Moving and Being Moved: Implications for Practice. Quest, 52(3), 260–272. Standal, Ø. F. (2015). Phenomenology and pedagogy in Physical Education. New York: Routledge.

Physical education, physical activity, meaning, learning,

StatusUdgivet - 2017


  • Skoler, fag og institutioner
  • learning
  • meaning
  • physical activity
  • physical education