The social construction of higher grade physical education : teacher curriculum decision making and pupil subject choice
This study centres on understanding teachers' curriculum decision making (CDM) and pupils' subject choice in physical education. The curriculum reform chosen to illustrate these two central issues is Higher Grade Physical Education (HGPE), a nationally available qualification in physical education that has been available to fifth and sixth year (16 to 18 year olds) Scottish secondary pupils from 1993. The focus on teacher CDM and pupil subject choice contributes more generally to our understanding of the social construction of physical education as a school subject. The framework used to investigate the social construction of knowledge, teacher CDM and pupil subject choice is Basil Bernstein's model of the social construction of pedagogic discourse. Bernstein's three fields of knowledge production and reproduction and his notion of pedagogic discourse allowed the framing of the examination of the development, mediation and reproduction of the HGPE course. The study illustrates how the dominant model for innovation in Scottish schools continues to be external leadership by the centre and how agents operating at this level constructed HGPE as a science-based, sport-performance-oriented discourse. The findings suggest that teachers' and pupils' interpretations of the HGPE discourse are not explicit reasons for the decision to offer or study the subject but are more likely to be embedded in the context in which individual teachers work and in pupils' enjoyment and future vocation. Emerging issues that are discussed include the process of managing HGPE by the SEB and the extent to which the SEB exercised power to mandate precisely the form HGPE should take as it was implemented in secondary schools. A lack of external support in delivering HGPE, teacher de-professionalisation and de-skilling and professional development support for teachers are all identified and discussed. The study concludes with suggestions for the future construction of knowledge within the Scottish education system and ideas regarding what can be done to promote HGPE.