Introducing conditions of complexity in the context of Scottish physical education

Michael Jess, Matthew Atencio, Nicola Carse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Primary physical education (PE) has recently been identified as a subject area that has the potential to address growing concerns and associated initiatives linked with children’s health and wellbeing, sport participation and physical activity levels (Petrie & lisahunter, 2011). In Scotland, primary PE has likewise been placed in a prominent position, structured within the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) guidelines aimed at enhancing and promoting children’s and young people’s health and wellbeing (Thorburn, Jess & Atencio, 2011). Yet, evidence nationally and internationally suggests there is significant variation in the quality of primary PE, largely in relation to the prevailing use of the multi-activity ‘block’ curriculum model which provides abstracted elements of sport and physical activities to children in compartmentalized, unrelated and fragmented ways (Rainer, Cropley, Jarvis & Griffiths, 2011). Notably, criticism has been levelled at the ways in which the ‘block’ model has resulted in lower quality provision and the perpetuation of developmentally inappropriate practices (Jess, Atencio & Thorburn, 2011; Thorburn, Jess & Atencio, 2009). In response to the uneven quality of children’s learning experiences within Scottish primary PE, Jess et al. (2011) propose that complexity theory principles have the potential to promote more developmentally appropriate, reflective and participative pedagogies. They suggest that complexity values such as uncertainty, diversity and the ‘edge of chaos’ can significantly underpin curricular practices in primary PE that allow for children to self-organise their learning in adaptive and creative ways. Davis and Sumara (2006) support this view that complexity is not simply an appropriate descriptor of postmodern educational conditions, but also provides a means of affirming and supporting learning experiences that are self-organised and adaptive. Additionally, they comment that complex learning is marked by de-centralised power structures that promote diverse and novel learning outcomes and behaviours. This chapter subsequently sets out to consider how professional learning developments in Scotland have helped create a context to facilitate the introduction of a complexity-oriented approach to primary PE. More specifically, it provides empirical evidence of how generalist classroom teachers come to engage with complexity-oriented concepts in their PE practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComplexity Thinking in Physical Education
Subtitle of host publicationReframing Curriculum, Pedagogy and Research
EditorsAlan Ovens, Tim Hopper, Joy Butler
ISBN (Electronic)9780203126455
ISBN (Print)9780415645171, 9780415507219
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2013


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