Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

The 'Professional' Work of Experienced Physical Education Teachers

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

The 'Professional' Work of Experienced Physical Education Teachers

Article excerpt

During the 1990s, discourses of teacher professionalism and professionalization have been seconded by educational bureaucracies in many countries as one avenue to arrest the "decline" in schooling standards (e.g., Eraut, 1994; Hargreaves, 1994; Popkewitz, 1994; Smyth, 1995). Hargreaves (1994) argued that professionalization from the teachers' perspective includes the struggle for and realization of curriculum and leadership responsibilities, collaborative and supportive cultures, commitment to continuous improvement, and the recognition of their work as complex and skilled. While teachers perhaps believe they are increasing their "professional" status, some basic changes in their work include compulsory performance appraisal in line with competencies, shifts to local management and market forces, and cumulative, nonnegotiable tasks (Hargreaves, 1994). Thus, it has been argued that teacher's work often reflects the disempowering process of deprofessionalization or proletarianization. This process is said to occur where work becomes more bureaucratically regulated, intensified and routinized, oriented toward executing rather than conceiving tasks, and reliant on others' "expertise" (Braverman, 1974; Densmore, 1987; Eraut, 1994; Hargreaves, 1994; Popkewitz, 1994).

Disempowering workplace conditions have contributed to unacceptable rates of teacher attrition across most developed and less developed countries (Chapman, 1994). In looking across secondary school specialists, Huberman (1993) reported that about 40% were seriously considering leaving teaching, while the scant statistical information on teacher attrition in physical education suggested that as many as 50% or more of teachers planned to leave the profession, many early in their careers. For example, Evans and Williams (1989) projected that 40% of female and 80% of male physical education teachers were looking for work outside physical education and Macdonald, Hutchins, and Madden (1994) reported that approximately 55% of the graduates from a particular university program had chosen to leave physical education teaching.

The high rates of attrition were the catalyst for a project to look at physical education teachers' work, with an initial focus on beginning teachers' satisfaction (Macdonald, 1995; Macdonald & Kirk, 1996). A qualitative study with 22 beginning physical education specialists revealed several issues which contributed to their dissatisfaction, including the low status of the subject, repetitive nature of the work, lack of authority and autonomy within the school and the school system, blurring between public and private lives, unsupportive staffroom cultures, and unfulfilling interactions with students. It was concluded that these teachers' early phases of socialization reflected the trend of proletarianization.

Research Questions

The above-mentioned findings prompted the questions underpinning this study. Do experienced physical education teachers perceive the same frustrations and negative orientations as beginning teachers? Furthermore, is the professionalization-deprofessionalization tension, argued by Hargreaves (1994) as fundamental to understanding all teachers' work, a useful theoretical framework for analyzing the perspectives of experienced physical educators? Although research suggests that the problems of physical education teachers are in many ways common across a range of contexts (e.g., Lawson & Stroot, 1993; Schempp & Graber, 1992; Templin, Sparkes, & Schempp, 1991), this paper challenges that assumption.

Teachers' Careers

Teachers' ages, years of service, and working conditions have been used to study their engagement with the teaching occupation over the course of a career. This section overviews these approaches to better understanding the occupational socialization process.

Approaches to Teacher Development. Teachers' professional development is a career-long process which is neither gradual nor linear but an often disrupted and discontinuous subjective experience within the context of a school, school community, and bureaucratic system (e. …

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