Physical Literacy in Danish Primary School

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftAbstraktForskningpeer review


In the last decade there has been an increasing international interest in the concept of physical literacy as a way to articulate the objectives of physical education and as a way to verbalize the idea of being physically educated throughout life. In general, research on the concept of physical literacy has built on a broad and holistic comprehension of physicality – based on existentialistic and phenomenological consideration of body and mind as a whole (Whitehead, 2001). Physical literacy focuses on the lived body, the embodied dimension of human existence and not only physical fitness of the body as a machine. In recent years initiative have also been taking in order to measure physical literacy – following the logic that if physical literacy should become as prominent as other types of literacy it should be measurable (Tremblay & Lloyd 2010). In Denmark researchers and PE teachers haven’t paid much attention to the international development of the concept of physical literacy. It may not have been found necessary or productive in a Danish context – maybe the objectives of PE are considered as well described and maybe the recent years increasing focus on learning goals have saturated the demand of verbalization. Anyway, a new school law was implemented in the Danish primary and secondary school system in August 2014. The main purposes of the law is to challenge every pupil to become as skilled as possible, lower the consequences of social background in order to achieve better results and strengthen the confidence to and the wellbeing in the school. Since research have indicated that there is a correlation between physical activity and intellectual capital (e.g. educational attainment and academic performance), physical capital (e.g. physical fitness and reduction of the risk for diseases and risk factors) and emotional capital (e.g. fun, enjoyment and self-esteem) (Bailey et al. 2013) it was decided to introduce physical activities and movements in the everyday life in schools. In order to improve the pupils’ health, cognitive learning and wellbeing all pupils from grade 1-9 must have at least 45 minutes of physical activity and movements in average every day.Next to the well-known PE-teaching the physical activities and movements should be integrated in the academic subjects as active teaching and brain breaks etc. or as organized activities during the extended school day. Since these movement activities is a new assignment for the schools and the ends of the movement activities are external the activities, the schools are facing some pedagogical challenges (Jensen 2015). There seems to be a lack of common language and understanding of what physical activities and movements could be. This research project investigates whether the physical activities and movements taking place in the school are supporting the idea of making the children physical literacy and whether physical literacy, offering a holistic perspective of body and mind, could be a productive concept to make a theoretical clarification but also to make guidelines for practice in order to support the didactic choices in everyday practice. Methods/methodologyAnthropological fieldwork was carried out in two Danish primary schools for approximately 20 days at each school (Spradley 1980; Gulløv & Højlund 2003). The researcher was following an age-integrated class in grade 0-2 and class in grade 5. The same group of pupils were followed throughout the school day from early morning when they arrived at the school, through the different subjects, breaks, physical activities, lunch breaks and finally during the after school activities in the late afternoon. The observations were mainly non-participating but at some occasions the researcher was participating in activities and games. The observations were written down as field notes (Emerson et al. 2011) and photos were taken to support the field notes. During the observation a special attention was addressed to bodily communication (Argyle 1988; Gebauer & Wulf 1996) and micro-sociological interactions (Goffman 1963). In the end of the fieldwork semi-structured interviews were conducted in small groups with 2-3 children in each group.Expected outcomes/resultsFrom experience from previous studies (Jensen 2015) it’s expected that the study will show that socializing, disciplining and civilizing activities have high priority while certain physical activities and reflexivity are less represented. By introducing the concept of physical literacy in relation to physical activity and movements in everyday life in the schools it’s expected that a more comprehensive and complete understand of physicality will develop. In the end it should give the pupils physical experiences and motivate them to be physical active throughout life and make them prerequisite to exploit the opportunities they will face in their lives. Intent of publication: Not decided yetReferences (max 400 words)Argyle, M. (1988). Bodily Communication. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.Bailey, R.; Hillman, C.; Arent, S. & Petitpas, A. (2013). Physical Activity: An underestimated Investment in Human Capital? In Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 10, Pp. 289-308. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press.Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.Elias, N. (1994). The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell.Emerson, R.M.; Fretz, R.I. & Shaw, L.L. (2011). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. The University of Chicago Press. Gebauer, G. & Wulf, Ch. (1996) Mimesis. Culture, Art, Society. California University Press. Gilliam, L. & Gulløv, E. (2014). Making Children 'Social': Civilizing Institutions in the Danish Welfare State. In Human Figurations, Vol. 3, Nr. 1, p. 1-15.Goffman, E. (1963): Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. London: Free Press.Gulløv, E. & Højlund, S. (2003). Feltarbejde blandt børn. [Field note among Children] Gyldendal. Jensen, J-O. (2015). Vær stille! Vi skal have bevægelse [Quiet please! It’s time to be active.] In R. Storm; S.H. Larsen; M. Mortensen & P.J. Jacobsen (ed.). Idræt i skolen, på eliteniveau og i historisk perspektiv. Forum for idræt. Spradley, J.P. (1980). Participant Observation. Harcourt Brace College Publishers.Tremblay, M. & Lloyd, M. (2010). Physical Literacy Measurement – The Missing Piece. In: Physical and health education. Pp. 26-30. Whitehead, M. (2001). The Concept of Physical Literacy. In: European Journal of Physical Education, 6:2, Pp. 127-138.Whitehead, M. (2007). Physical Literacy: Philosophical Considerations in Relation to Developing a Sense of Self, Universality and Propositional Knowledge. In Sport, Ethics and Philosophy. 1:3, Pp. 281-298.
StatusUdgivet - 2016