“It is our vision and not what we are viewing that is limited.” Nick Sousanis, Unflattening.
A key part of the PE Teachers role is to improve the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed that will allow children to access different forms of movement both in the present and in their future. That job of work is supported by the sharing of reasons why they might want to embrace movement in their lives. The main way that is achieved is through the curriculum, which builds a coherent narrative of the role movement can play. How we frame movement to children therefore matters. The language we use, the conversations we have, the stories we tell and the role models we promote all contribute to the narrative of how movement can play a significant role in their lives. The way we go about doing this can have a profound impact.
R. Scott Kretchmar suggests that in PE we tend to use three main frames; the prudential, the intellectual and the affective. I would add another to his list, the virtuous.
The prudential frame is one of ‘exercise-as-useful’.Without an active lifestyle how can they have a healthy life? We tell children that if they exercise daily then they will be fitter, healthier, decrease the chance of diseases like obesity and live for longer. I mean which child wouldn’t want that?
The intellectual frame is one based on the idea of ‘movement-as-understood’. This comes from the idea that if children are provided scientific knowledge and theory about the successes and failures of movement through biomechanics, anatomy, physiology other sport and exercise sciences then their movement experiences are likely to be more interesting to them.
The affective frame is one I have used often in my career ‘(physical)activity-as-enjoyed’. What we want is children to walk away from PE and what they are learning and say it was fun or see it as a positive experience in the hope that they will continue to seek out those experiences beyond PE.
The virtuous frame is ‘sport-as-character-building’ is currently being pushed hard in education. That through participating in sport children will build resilience, grit, fairness and respect as well as a set of transferable work skills such as goal setting, time management, team work, critical thinking and communication.
These frames (individually or in combination) tend to be the dominant ones in PE and are often considered good practice. However they are not intrinsically interesting for young people, especially not in the modern world we have created. They are shallow and certain frames, which tend to narrow rather than open up possibilities of questioning, learning and exploring ways in which movement might be personally relevant to young people.
Does this mean we should throw these frames out? No. They have role to play, but they should not be our dominant ones as they trap us in a fixed viewpoint. We need a frame that affords multiple perspectives, ‘frames with in frames‘ that allow a plurality of stories and meanings to surface providing a more comprehensive understanding of the role that movement can play in our lives. We as PE teachers should provide an overarching frame that allow others to sit in and be offered if appropriate.
I propose ‘movement-as-a-way-of-enriching-life‘ as our defining frame, which the other frames can be incorporated into. It allows us to explore and co-create frames of personal meaning and significance with the young people we teach. Having such a frame involves embracing uncertainty. The uncertainty that we might never find a frame that works or whether the young person even wants to have a place for movement in their lives. This is a challenging position to take it as it requires us to be sensitive to the situation and the context. The uncertainty of the ‘movement-as-a-way-of-enriching-life‘ demands us to consider what is right in relation to teaching PE. Asking us to interpret the actions, reactions and reflections of the young people in our lessons and be flexible to what meanings may emerge out of our teaching.
Movement as a means of increasing the quantity of life is an important frame, but this should not be our defining frame. The frame which we place around movement should be about increasing the quality of life in all its rich, diverse and complex meanings.