Strong words, tough minds, trained bodies : a life history narrative analysis of female student teachers of physical education
This research addresses the construction of gender identities within the context of Initial Teacher Training in Physical Education within England. The life story narratives of ten female student teachers of physical education arc documented and analysed, drawing upon a feminist theoretical framework informed by tenets of poststructuralist thinking. These approaches assisted in accommodating and explaining the contradictory social positions that the women engaged in, within a variety of discourses, as they constructed multiple, diverse and often contradictory gender identities. The participants consist of ten determined and highly successful women (strong minds) who have much to say about their agency (strong words) yet simultaneously find themselves complicit to a number of traditional gender discourses, particularly in terms of the body - an awareness of which increases during the process of training to become a Physical Education Teacher (trained bodies). Such complexity precludes any finite conclusions being drawn. Rather the thesis engages in, and extends, the discussions surrounding the thcorising of gender, resistance, and agency within teacher training in Physical Education. The stories capture some fundamental shifts in the place of feminisms in post-modemity or high modernity, with a simultaneous use of both, to borrow Giddens (1991) terms, 'emancipatory' and 'life politics' styles of feminism; with gender inequality defined as a collective problem, but with an individual solution. Moreover, a number of gendered inequalities at both the structural and micro-political level are highlighted. In particular, a liberal discourse of equal opportunities appeared to mask the institutionalisation of 'otherness' these women experienced in teaching practice, and supported the cssentialisation of male and female identities. Whilst there aren't tales of radical changes in their teaching of Physical Education, the narratives alluded to their embodied vision, and in acts of naming, the agency they had for telling, constructing and shaping their lives is revealed. As such, the thesis concludes by suggesting that teacher education and educational research need to embrace more explicitly and centrally a framework which considers further, the role of gender in the formation of a variety of teachers identities. Moreover, in developing more critical reflexive forms of teacher education, a number of strategies of intervention which draw upon critical post-structuralist perspectives are outlined.