Category Archives: Current projects

Spring update 2017: recent research activities

Is this thing still on?

Sweeping the dust off and trying to get back into blogging my research and teaching life. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately…

This year I have got involved in a few projects that have led to there being six papers ‘on my desk’ at the moment – metaphorically on my desk, as some of them are still only concepts. So managing my time is a priority at the moment, or even managing my expectations about what I can successfully complete. Getting back into my teaching after maternity leave (updating units to improve them, thinking about long term changes, remembering everything after an academic year off) has taken a lot of my energies this year but as designing and delivering teaching is a never ending task, there comes a time when it must no longer get in the way of my research activities.

My attention is on three main projects:

Social Justice in PETE

Following the creation of over 70 interviews with PETE and PESP faculty across the English speaking world, I have three papers to contribute to:

The knowledge base for social justice and socio-cultural issues in PETE…how do PETE and PESP faculty know what they know or believe to be social justice and socio-cultural issues? What professional development could be offered for teacher educators?

International perspectives on social justice in PETE…what is called social justice in different areas? How does local context affect what we see as social injustices and how to educate for social justice?

Whiteness in the PETE curriculum… prompted by the question generated by a student movement ‘why is my curriculum white?’, we examine the construction of curriculum on two PETE courses.

PE textbooks and children’s colouring books

Data collection and analysis is all complete for both elements (one on PE textbooks, one on colouring books) of this project so it is just (‘just’!) about editing and refining the text of both papers and ensuring sufficient theoretical basis and educational implications. I presented this work at BERA in September 2016 and more in depth in a research seminar at York St John in December 2016.

Student journeys: narratives in student experience

Over two academic years we are collecting interviews with Level 4 and 5 students on their journeys (geographical and metaphorical) to and through university to understand more about their dreams and intentions in coming to university and succeeding. We have carried out some interviews and observations and will be inviting participants to engage collaboratively in developing teaching and learning changes.

Blogging my research: what do we talk about when we talk about social justice?

Word cloud of social justice definitions

We have now completed 19 interviews with PE and Sport academics / teacher educators in universities in England (part of a total of over 50 interviews across the world!). An interesting part of the discussion in these interviews has been around the participants’ definition of social justice and socio-cultural issues. These are the key things we are investigating so they are terms that we need to define with participants in order to be on the same page for the subsequent questions. There’s a diversity of responses in how these terms are understood and used. Below are some notes I made on the responses I got.

Social justice is appreciating and accepting difference and its importance in a diverse society. Achieving potential: students’ potential, society’s potential. Tolerating and understanding difference. Social identity: fitting in, or not fitting in. It affects you as a researcher: you want to know who you students are. It means breaking down inequality and privilege to social identity and biography. It means owning and examining privilege. What might be equal to one person is not another.

Social justice is aspiration, expectation, multiculturalism. It is more than legal equality, fairness and being treated the same: it is about social structure, cultural norms, but not just structure-agency, but things beyond our control, in everyday interactions. There’s a worry that current developments to British culture and politics are showing a fear of difference.

It can also be about moving from integration to inclusion: focusing on how environments can be adapted, not changing students/children/any people. Within physical education and sport courses, we need to look beyond sport to society in order to reach for social justice across the board.

If you are going to be a critical pedagogue, you need to be aware of social justice and socio-cultural issues, you need to be aware of giving voice while also understanding your own position. You can challenge students to find the holes in your perspective, but you need to be careful not to teach in an elite way.

Social justice needs to appear across all modules, to get it across through the back door, but it should also have a stand alone module for focus.

We might be more comfortable with terms like diversity, equality, equity, inclusion. Not everyone understands or uses the notion of social justice. Is it a new term? Why use this one in particular? Does it encompass something more or greater than equity?

I’d be interested to hear your perspective if you would like to add a comment.

Announcing new project: Student Journeys: What is it like being a student?

Scholarship on social justice in education prompts questions concerning the purpose and culture of educational organisations that might (unknowingly) work to exclude some individuals or groups and furthermore that contemporary approaches to student recruitment and course design can result in alienation for students from learning. We propose to consider how we might contribute to creating and maintaining socially just learning environments and experiences for our students, paying attention to how the hidden curriculum within existing structures of teaching and learning, indeed, within the geographical and cultural spaces of higher education, might affect students’ approaches to their learning and their experiences across the campus.

While debating the challenges of engaging and retaining students in their learning, University of Bedfordshire staff were aware that we have limited knowledge of how our increasingly diverse body of students holistically experience and understand University life (both the more ‘formal’ teaching strategies and curriculum executed by the instructor/University and ‘informal’ extra-curricular activities and spaces engaged by students), and the diverse role Higher Education plays in their lives. UoB students in the department of Sport Science and Physical Activity are diverse in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic status and geographical origin. We also recruit a number of ‘non-traditional’ students through widening participation. A number of students choose to remain living at home, commuting daily to the University.  Additionally, some of the sport courses have a heavy weighting towards male students, which can affect the experiences and retention of female students.

Our project therefore is to launch a research programme aimed at exploring, through an innovative ethnographic/qualitative action research approach, a range of our student’s perceptions of, and identification with, their University experiences as understood from their own culturally and socially grounded standpoints.

The research element of the project incorporates multi-method qualitative inquiry among L4 and L5 cohorts and includes insider interviews, focus groups, participant observation and auto-ethnographies to investigate:

  • Student identities: What is it like being a student at UoB?
  • Student journeys: Identify the geographical, cultural and emotional dimensions shaping and defining students ‘Higher Education Journeys’ to, in and around University
  • Student narratives: Understand the holistic role and importance of both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ University provision in shaping students’ perceptions of, and identification with, their University experiences
  • Teaching and Learning insights: How we can tap into students’ values in order to activate behaviour change toward increased levels of engagement.

Student participants/co-researchers are sought to begin the inquiry and to develop plans for shaping teaching/learning and informal experiences.

If you are a UoB student and would like to be involved, contact: joanne.hill@beds.ac.uk
This project is run by Dr Joanne Hill and Dr Alex Stewart. It is possible thanks to a University of Bedfordshire Teaching and Learning Enhancement Grant.

Blogging my research: deciding how to analyse colouring book images

I recently was able to take some time to start the qualitative analysis on the colouring books project. If creative materials like colouring books differentiate how boys and girls are presented  in active situations, it might affect their imaginations and trajectories through sport, leisure and education. The Let Books Be Books campaign asserts that gender differentiated and stereotyped materials restrict the story lines available to children and can make them feel outcast if they make choices that don’t belong to ‘their gender’.

The quantitative analysis was completed in late 2014 but soon being on maternity leave I was not able to get the second part, where I attempt more of a discourse analysis of some of the images in six colouring books. The focus is on images of human bodies and physical activity, and I am trying to get a sense of how masculinity and femininity are represented in colouring books for children. Are men presented as active and powerful? Are women represented as passive / engaged in domestic activities, and are their poses submissive? The quantitative research (Martínez-Bello and Hill, under review) found that gendered colouring books (books for boys and books for girls) present predominantly characters of the gender the book is aimed at, and found something of a trend towards boys being shown out of doors  and girls indoors more often. This used a quantitative content analysis to describe the images based on certain categories (gender, age of character; space; activity type – e.g. leisure time physical activity, sedentary, active transport). Gillian Rose (2013) in Visual Methodologies identifies that content analysis can provide a thorough representation of the field, but struggles to contribute to a critical visual methodology.

I’m interested in whether there is a double whammy so that girls don’t merely learn what activities are appropriate for girls, but also how to act, dress and behave in a feminine way and in relation to boys (and vice versa with boys, masculinity). This prompts qualitative research because of the need to consider the sense or meaning that can be read in an image and accompanying text that a quantitative content analysis cannot record. Rose notes that a quantitative content analysis finds it difficult to analyse the strength of connections, for instance prompting us to think that a more frequent occurrence is more important than something that is only seen as few times.

However, there are multiple forms of qualitative analysis that can help make sense of the meanings of images, so I will turn to my go-to visual methods guides to help choose an analysis method (Gilliam Rose first!).

 

Blogging my research: first interviews on PE teacher education and social justice

We are 10 interviews in on the UK element of the project on social justice and socio-cultural issues in PETE. My first thoughts on some commonalities in what has been discussed.

I usually start the interviews by asking, what actually is social justice, how do you define it? For some participants this is tricky to answer. It’s a term we all had heard, but don’t necessarily use. I wonder if social justice is a recent concept, as one that attempts to encompass more than equality and diversity, to consider fairness, activism, progressive policies, doing more to reach and make things better for all types of marginalised communities and individuals. As my last post on this project noted, there is something about caring and dealing with contemporary events such as the Orlando massacre. To bear in mind for analysis, is how the participants defined social justice.

Two key points raised about the impact of teaching social justice or teaching in a socially just way were the issue of occupational socialisation for teachers (once they are in schools) and activism. As PETE, how do we help pre-service teachers to prepare for maintaining their values in the job? And can teaching social justice be considered a form of activism for educators who do not or cannot engage in social activism “out there” – going to marches, donating money, being politically engaged (although of course the meaning of activism and what counts as proper activism or just back seat activism is unclear). For instance, do we have a duty to educate about and for a socially just world?

A big thank you to the participants so far and those scheduled in for July!

Seeking participants for research: PE teacher educators and social justice teaching

Project aim

We are investigating how physical education teacher educators address and educate their students / pre-service teachers about sociocultural and social justice issues within physical education.

Participants

Teaching (and research) staff in physical education in higher education institutions. This includes those teaching on physical education teacher education programmes leading to QTS but also undergraduate and postgraduate physical education and sport programmes.

You do not have to be teaching a specific course/module on sociocultural and/or social justice issues to take part.

What you would need to do

The research involves an interview, sharing course documentation (module handbooks, reading lists, syllabi, assignment instructions) and a demographic questionnaire on your work and education history.

It should take about two hours of your time in total.

Interviews can be done in person (the researcher will visit you at your institution) or over Skype.

How to get in touch

If you would like to take part, please email Dr Joanne Hill at joanne.hill@beds.ac.uk

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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