End of term round up, 2015

It’s the end of the 2014-15 academic year, and in the spirit of reflection on successes and opportunities for future years, I here round up my teaching and research goings-on over the last 12 months. (Idea borrowed from Ethan Watrall at Profhacker)

Teaching

This is the second year that I have delivered the units I look after at Bedfordshire. The introductory unit in sociological and historical developments in sport (Sport and Physical Activity in Society) continues to encourage me to read widely about the sporting world and learn new ways to show how sociology can inform sport, and vice versa. Last year we had a rich range of international sporting events to draw from to help us apply sociological concepts to real-world examples – a winter Olympics and Paralympics, a men’s football World Cup, a Commonwealth Games and Le Tour de France’s trip to England. In 2015, the women’s football World Cup, and the growing concern with FIFA corruption in the early months of the year – that have recently resulted in arrests of many FIFA officials – have captured a lot of our attention. Yet despite me feeling like there’s great connections between the sociology we study and the real world of sport, there are always a few feedback forms that claim not to see any relevance to their degree programme. So a question remaining for next year is how to engage the sociological imagination of all the class.

Other particularly interesting issues for the students appear to have included gender and race equality and discrimination, going by the focus of much of the written work they produced. I have a really diverse range of people taking my unit and always try to find ways to engage them all in understanding and analysing these issues, whether they are from a social group that faces inequalities and discrimination, or whether they are learning about others’ problems for the first time. This is something there’s always room for improvement on, to enable multiple voices to be heard. I also really enjoyed adding in a closer look at commercialisation and globalisation processes throughout sport. Perhaps less successful was my attempt to enthuse students about the sociology of the body – it is my research area after all, and I hoped that a little bit of Bourdieu and Butler would be interesting – I’ll keep working on that one!

In my masters-level research methods class, I encouraged students to delve deeper into a particular aspect of methodology by taking the lead for a class. They usually presented an overview and asked some questions, often setting pre-reading for the others to get up to speed. I was pleased that most students did engage with the reading set by their peers. There were also a lot of videos shown, perhaps to hide the presenter’s nerves, so next year I will try to encourage less reliance on existing resources and more discussion for a fully critical examination of research methods.

Research

I’ve begun two new research projects and seen one reach a sort-of conclusion this year. The new ones first.

Social Justice in Physical Education Teacher Education is an international collaboration (PI: Jennifer Walton-Fisette) aiming to understand the field of teaching social justice and critical pedagogy in PE in higher education to see how pre-service teachers are prepared to (for example) engage with diverse students or inequalities in schools. We have a methodology drafted for a two phase project: firstly with faculty and secondly with students. Phase 1 is ready to pilot over the summer. We are also looking at some grants to pursue.

The Colouring Books project (co-researcher Vladimir Martinez-Bello) was in the early stages in 2014 and this year has developed to see us write up the quantitative side of the research. We examined colouring books explicitly aimed at girls or boys for their equal representation of girl or boy characters, also asking whether they depicted more boys or girls in physical or sedentary activities and in indoor or outdoor settings. This work is under review. We are now starting to follow it up with a qualitative look at how femininities and masculinities are represented in the same colouring books. Ultimately the project seeks to analyse how children encounter representations of physical activity across curricular material, so we will be looking at other types of books too.

The case study in Positive Movement Subcultures, begun in 2013 (co-researchers Rachel Sandford and Eimear Enright), has partially reached a close, as we have seen the successful writing up of the paper that examined how a dance school for adults created a body-positive community. This work is in press. We would be interested in pursuing further case study work with other physical activity communities (movement subcultures) whether in school or community-based for young people or adults. We do strengths-based qualitative research to look at what works in successful movement subcultures – to aim to enhance experiences in that community plus find good practice that might be shared.

As the teaching year winds up, and I also look forward to the arrival of my little one in August, this is a prime time to get some things off my desk or bring projects to a natural place to pause. Predominantly this summer, my attention is on two chapters of an exciting new edition of a textbook – a new writing endeavour for me but one I am really enjoying.

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