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Title: Health(y) talk : pupils' conceptions of health within physical education
Author: Hooper, Oliver R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 5270
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2018
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Schools, and in particular physical education (PE), have been increasingly recognised for the role that they play in promoting healthy, active lifestyles amongst children and young people in light of the public health agenda (Armour and Harris, 2013). However, whilst schools have been recognised for the role that they can play in promoting health to children and young people, concerns have been expressed with regard to the status of health in PE and the approaches and practices used to address health-related learning (Cale et al., 2016). A particular concern in this regard is what children and young people know and understand about health , and how they come to conceive this within PE, with a growing body of literature suggesting that pupils conceptions are relatively superficial and simplistic (see Harris et al. (2016) for an overview). Accordingly, the purpose of this research is to explore pupils conceptions of health within PE. The research was comprised of four phases which took place over an 18-month period within the East Midlands region of England. Phase one involved an online survey being distributed to all state secondary schools (n = 293) and with a total of 52 schools responding. Phase two involved semi-structured interviews being conducted with 13 PE teachers at two case study schools and focus groups with 117 pupils (aged 11-12) at the same schools. A participatory approach underpinned the study and relevant methods/techniques were employed within pupil focus groups to generate discussion and elicit pupils conceptions of health . Examples of the methods/techniques employed included: drawings, concept cartoons and statement sheets. Pupils worked interactively with one another to undertake and discuss tasks/activities in line with the youth voice agenda that underpinned the research. This agenda is often allied with participatory methods (Heath et al., 2009) and seeks to privilege the voices of younger participants, recognising that children and young people are competent social agents, capable of both understanding and articulating their own experiences (Christensen and James, 2008). Phase three involved follow-up focus groups with the same pupils who participated during the preceding phase, and a similar participatory approach was employed. Phase four involved semi-structured focus groups being conducted with the same PE teachers at each school. Data generated were analysed using a Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis. The findings of the study highlight that the vast majority of pupils conceptions of health were reductive, limited and limiting. These conceptions of health were identified as being underpinned by: corporeal notions, aesthetic orientations and healthist influences. In addition, they aligned with normative conceptions of health , that were evidently influenced by public health discourses, which may well have been promulgated by and through PE. Whilst pupils did not necessarily consider that PE influenced their conceptions of health , there were evident links, which PE teachers themselves acknowledged and problematised. Positively, it was highlighted that there were some pupils who were able to disrupt normative conceptions of health and, in doing so, they demonstrated their capacity for criticality. As such, the challenge for PE is now to consider how it might support pupils to develop their capacities to receive, interpret and be critical of health-related information. If it can do so, it may well be that critically-inclined conceptions of health can be fostered within, through and by the subject.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Health ; Physical education ; Children and young people ; Participatory research ; Youth voice