Teachers' Discursive Representations of Pupils "Low Motivated" for Physical Education and Health

Article excerpt

Abstract: This inquiry draws on interviews, focus group discussions and dialogues with fourteen teachers of Physical Education and Health (PEH) in Sweden. The aim was to study what discursive beliefs these teachers hold regarding important learning objectives and general aims for the subject and how these can be understood. Furthermore, what implications do the discursive beliefs have and how do they conduct their teaching in order to reach all pupils? The results show that the type of learning objectives teachers consider and find essential in PEH create certain pupils who get labeled as low motivated for the subject. Norms and values from sports contexts outside school affect teachers' perceptions of important learning objectives, and pupils not involved in sports outside school are likely to be low motivated for PEH according to the teachers. Teachers refer the problem with motivation to the individual (the pupil) or the contextual level (social background, parents etc.) rather than to the situational level - their own teaching in the class.

Keywords: Physical education, low motivation, teacher beliefs


Many scholars suggest that there is a need to shift focus from pedagogical strategies and teaching behaviours to the beliefs that prompt teachers to use these strategies and behaviours (e.g. Calderhead, 1996; Pajares, 1992; Tsangaridou, 2006; Richardsson, 1996). The beliefs teachers hold serve as the foundation that continuously govern actions, influence their strategies and play an important part in the judgments, understanding and interpretations they make every day. Teachers' beliefs can be inferred from actions or statements, and to understand teaching from teachers' perspectives it is important to examine what beliefs define their work (Nespor, 1987). Many scholars have investigated teachers' beliefs systems toward purposes (Wilson, 1969; Goc-Karp et al., 1985), beliefs related to actions in teaching (Kulinna et al., 2000), learning objectives (Loucks, 1979), backgrounds (Placek & Dodds, 1988; Placek et al., 1 995; Lundvall & Meckbach, 2004), conceptions and success in teaching (Placek, 1983) and value orientations (Behets, 2001). Ball and Goodson (1985) argue that previous career and life experiences of teachers shape both their views of teaching and the manner in which they set about it. Teachers' lives outside school, their latent identities and cultures will also have an impact upon their work, all of which are located within a particular historical period. Borko and Putnam (1996) argue that the belief systems teachers hold serve as filters through which their learning takes place and those systems are critical targets and major determinants of changing future teaching practice. However, value and belief systems are hard to change and almost regarded as manifest features. Teachers seem to filter new experiences to a screen of their earlier belief systems and accept practices that complement their core beliefs and ignore practices that do not fit in (Doolittle et al., 1 993). In Sweden, Lundvall and Meckbach (2004) have shown that a majority of the PEH teachers seem to be very familiar with the culture of sports, organising sports, participating in sports and are influenced by values in sport contexts. One may assume that this might affect values regarding central learning objectives, how teaching should be arranged, what characterises the good or the highly motivated pupil or the less good or lower motivated pupil and so forth. Larsson (2009) highlights the fact that Swedish PEH students share many features, and have similar habits where interest in sports seems to be even more important than becoming a teacher, especially for men.

Teachers and pupils internalise norms and values from the social world in where they live. Berger and Luckmann (1966) argue that all humans have a natural propensity to form habits and this will reduce the cognitive dissonance.1 In relation to human interaction one is likely to attribute typical motives for their actions to other humans. …


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