Self-Image and Physical Education-A Phenomenological Study

Article excerpt

Background

Throughout life, we seek the answer to the question "Who am I?" and this question is particularly in focus during our development as teenagers. During this time, major physiological and psychological changes occur and adolescence constitutes the sum of all our attempts to adjust and incorporate these external and internal changes within the self (Blos, 1962; Erikson, 1977). In this context, the body is essential to experiencing ourselves. It acts as a symbol of the self and is also of significance in furthering the individual's identity (Sparkes, 1997). When the body changes and develops, the identity also undergoes upheaval. The development of the self-identity can either be seen as a process entirely ongoing within the individual in a way that is described in classical psychoanalysis or as a process occurring in concert with the social environment (Ahlgren, 1991; Harter, 1996, 1999; Oyserman & Marcus, 1998; Schutz & Luckmann, 1974).

There are many homonymous and synonymous terms for self-concepts both in the Swedish and English language literature. Self-concept, self-esteem, self-perception, self-confidence, self-image, self-awareness, self-evaluation, self-worth, and self-consciousness are some examples of English expressions. Self-concept has been defined as an umbrella term for the attributes of the self and self-esteem as an evaluative and developing component according to Lindwall (2004), while other researchers use the terms synonymously (Lintunen, 1999; Sonstroem, 1997). According to Moser (2006), this makes it difficult to unambiguously define both the Swedish and the English self-concept. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of consensus regarding how the significance and constitution of self-concept arises, namely from how we assess ourselves as people and how others look at and assess us (Bean & Lipka, 1984; Brissett, 1972; Rosenberg, 1979; Swann, Chang-Schneider, & McClarty, 2007).

The self and its relationship with other factors are often described in models and structures. Fox (1988, 1997), Rosenberg (1979), and Shavelson (2003) are of the opinion that the self is constituted in multidimensional and hierarchical structures whose objects have a global and a general significance. According to Fox (1997), self-esteem as a global phenomenon has a subcategory, Physical Self, which with regard to sporting ability consists of an attractive body, physical strength, and fitness. Shavelson, like Marsh, Craven and McInerney (2003), identifies self-concept as a global object with underlying categories of social relationships, academic ability, or physical and health-related proficiency. Sonstroem (1997) describes an alternative model in which participation in physical activity yields psychological advantages in terms of self-esteem and in which physical expertise spans external exercise and internal self-esteem.

Hattie's (2003) critique of the application of various models, in accordance with the above, is "that these conceptions are 'there' with no reference to time and place" (p. 142). These terms are neither genetically nor environmentally conditioned, according to Hattie, who continues by criticising the traditional testing methods of the self as an assessment of everything we choose to interpret about the ego. This critique can be related to Giorgi (1986) who holds this opinion "... that is, how things and events are for the consciousness that beholds them and not how they are in themselves" (p. 6). Thus, psychological objects of study could appropriately be studied using phenomenology, a discipline seeking knowledge about the significance of different experiences rather than pure facts surrounding the experience (Giorgi).

In this study, the focus is on how instruction in Physical Education (PE) affects pupils' self-image and what self-image means to pupils. Phenomenological principles are used to study what these effects mean in terms of how pupils assess themselves and how others look at them. …

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