Conceptualizations of physical literacy: A hermeneutic inquiry with secondary physical education teachers

  • Author / Creator
    Hannay, Stacey
  • Physical literacy (PL) is a formidable lens through which many physical educators have begun to examine movement in relation to physical activity. Although theoretical and conceptual frameworks support teachers in their implementation pursuits, there has been a privation of clarity on how to operationalize the concept. While the lack of clarity has caused confusion in the nomenclature, studies have emerged that offer meaningful discussions, writings, and understandings of what PL could be for teacher pedagogy. Research, however, is still falling short at delving into the true essence(s) of teachers’ conceptualization of the concept. The purpose of this research was to further the understanding of teachers’ conceptualization of PL as a valued process in studying the embodied nature of the concept. By coming closer to understanding how PL supports holistic education, pedagogical transformation, and embodied relationships in teaching and learning, the data generated allows us to appreciate and recognize some of the essential elements of being human in a world of movement. This research set out to specifically examine how physical education (PE) teachers interpreted the construct of PL and how they understood the construct as embodied learning (referring to the pedagogical approaches that focus on the non-mental factors involved in learning, and that signal the importance of the body and feelings through movement). The significance of this research as a pathway for teaching and learning was to explore a deeper understanding of embodied learning, cultures of wellness, and engagement in health and PE programming in schools.
    Through the theoretical lens of interpretivism, hermeneutic research traditions and approaches, the data was generated through open-ended and semi-structured interviews, focus-group interactions and reflexive journaling. The hermeneutic dialectic spiral was part of the study’s approach to juncture the sociohistorical context and the subjective interpretations of the participants (epistemology) as they worked through their conceptualization of PL. Reflexive journaling was the foundation for the bodywork required to enter the dialectic spiral, guided by interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) in ‘uncovering’ teachers’ ‘unfamiliarity’. The phenomenological side of IPA invited the researcher into the world of the participants to make sense of their life experiences, whereas the hermeneutic dialectic facilitated how to make sense of the participants’ constructions of consciousness, as the process of conceptualization in relation to PL.
    The results of the study fell within two identified concerns: How PE teachers interpreted the construct of physical literacy; How PE teachers understood the construct of PL as embodied learning. The research findings from the first concern suggested that; (a) the interpretation of PL is intrinsically linked to the traditions of PE’s past, which have embedded an assumption that traditional physical/sports skill-based PE models are so entrenched in the historical consciousness of PE classrooms that paradigm shifts in thinking are difficult to manifest, creating the conditions that make PL a difficult construct to embrace within a PE classroom context; (b) that the prejudices of lifelong learning opportunities have a cause and effect regarding students’ motivation and their desires to pursue PL journeys of their own. This cause and effect can support improvements to overall health and well-being, but only when a teaching commitment and a moral imperative to develop the whole child is enacted upon; (c) the uncovering of language biases have created disquiet and confusion within the nomenclature in the understanding of a universally accepted and a formal definition of PL, resulting in mistrust, misunderstanding and misuse of the construct; (d) the (re)awakening of the situatedness of joy as a possible marker of PL and that of meaningful experiences in movement is still a consideration well-intended of further exploration.
    Relative to the second concern, the data generated suggested to move is innately a human experience, whereby; (a) human experiences encapsulate PL as an essential literacy that can create familiarity because the body cannot be siloed in an effort to educate the whole child; (b) the language of ‘embodiment’ holds subjective prejudices that construct the necessary conditions for (mis)understanding but also attunement in relation to PL; (c) the unfamiliarity of language prescribed to the process of uncovering is an evolution in the conceptualization of understanding and calls for further interpretation; (d) the altruistic and benevolent value orientation of PL contributes to the emergence of a different type of pedagogue.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.