Primary physical education: A complex learning journey for children and teachers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Primary physical education (PPE) is increasingly being recognised for the role it can potentially play in setting a foundation for lifelong engagement in physical activity. However, the majority of the literature continues to focus on the negative features of the subject within the primary context. Whilst acknowledging the existence of these barriers, this paper sets out to take a proactive approach by presenting a conceptual framework for PPE that seeks to support a renewed and positive vision for the future. Based on ideas from complexity thinking, the framework represents a move beyond the more positivist and linear approaches that have long been reported to dominate practices in PPE and recognises learners as active agents engaged in a learning process that is collaborative, non-linear and uncertain. While acknowledging the contested nature of the complexity field, the paper explores how key principles, including self-organisation, emergence, similarity, diversity, connectedness, nestedness, ambiguous bounding, recursive elaboration and edge of chaos, offer a lens that views PPE as a complex system. With the children's learning positioned as the focus of PPE in the educational setting, the paper discusses how complexity principles interweave with the ecological components to help us better understand and more creatively engage with the complex nature of PPE developments. Specifically, these components are identified as PPE learning experiences and their associated pedagogy, teachers and their PPE professional learning and key environmental factors that include the physical environment and key stakeholders who influence developments across the different levels of the education system. The paper concludes by suggesting that this complexity-informed PPE framework represents an open invitation for the all those involved in PPE to engage in a collective process of exploration and negotiation to positively influence developments in PPE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1035
Number of pages18
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number7
Early online date14 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2016


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