Tag Archives: social justice

Teaching for and about social justice in sport sociology and physical education (report from BSA Sport Study Group workshop)

On 23rd February 2018 I led a workshop at the BSA Sport Study Group’s teaching sport sociology day at the University of Northampton. My workshop was on teaching for and about social justice in sport sociology. Here’s an overview of some of the things we discussed…

My motivation in presenting this workshop was to continue some of the work my social justice research group has been doing in physical education and sport pedagogy circles, but broadening it out to other areas of sport education, like sport sociology. In this field, it is more common to have a sociocultural perspective than it is in teacher education, purely because that is the main subject content. However, a sociocultural perspective or subject area doesn’t necessarily mean a socially just or critical perspective. So, questions that we have posed in the social justice project with teacher educators, concerning how they came to know about sociocultural issues and how/if they have developed their knowledge, are still relevant in this other field.

I went into the workshop kind of with an assumption: that equity, diversity and justice are generally good things that we should work to further in our higher education environments, for the success of our students and for the people they may work with in the future as teachers, coaches, health practitioners, sport developers, managers.

I asked the group, firstly, how they would define social justice. Here are two (poor!) images of their responses:

IMG_20180228_170315412

There are a range of responses here:

Equality, fairness, inclusion, redistribution, asking questions, challenging inequalities, addressing failures, the process toward achieving change

One is slightly cynical if I may say so:

‘[social justice is] a phrase I hear bandied about’

I would say that is true! It might be a phrase that we hear lots of without fully knowing what it is supposed to refer to. Yet, it does indeed refer to a number of things, depending on the perspective of the writer, and this nebulous meaning has been discussed in the literature and in my research group’s forthcoming paper Hill et al. ‘Conceptualising social justice and sociocultural issues’.

I then asked the group to discuss a couple of questions to understand their previous experiences of learning about social justice, equity or diversity. In my research with physical education teacher educators (forthcoming), three ways of developing knowledge came up: formal education (e.g. learning about equality issues on your degree programme), personal experience (e.g. having experience of being marginalised), and professional experience (e.g. being in a job supporting marginalised students). At this workshop, I asked participants to use Padlet to share their discussion points. Padlet is an online pinboard that allows users to post text or links and then make comments on them. The Padlet is here to view. Some answers to the question concerning how they learnt to teach about social justice issues were:

‘it is rarely discussed in teaching and learning qualifications’

‘…through osmosis…’

‘no formal learning experiences’

‘through trial and error’

These are useful answers to reflect on, because amongst a group of sociologically-trained researchers, education for teaching about social issues and justice seems rare (I think this mirrors concerns across academia that the training for an academic job does not train us for the realities of teaching, project management, service work and so on).

Then participants shared what they need in order to learn more or to be able to include more social justice in their teaching. Again they responded using Padlet and there was a distinct request for case studies, resources or examples of how others have done it. This aligns with the observation above that formal learning opportunities rarely include how to teach about/for social justice. Although most sport sociologists will be aware of and use theoretical frames around equity, justice, social issues and so on in their research, ways to teach these concepts are not learnt, and so we might find ourselves trying something and using reflection to make improvements. Life experiences – whether our own or our students – are an important starting point for bringing social issues to life.

This idea was raised throughout the day by other presenters and attendees. Mark Doidge noted that one reason for running the workshop was to provide a space for sociologists – who may be isolated in sport science departments – to share teaching concerns. Many of us have diverse student groups who will enter diverse sport settings, so there is high relevance for sociological thinking about the situations we face; Ian Jones pointed out that critical thinking about sport’s benefits, and the impact of sporting events on athletes and citizens displaced by stadium building projects, should be vital for sports students. However, sociologists may be contradicting the messages that students get on other parts of their degree and so sociology may be easily invalidated; we should think then about how race, gender, class and other social issues can be embedded across different aspects of the course, not single lectures (reflection made during Kevin Hylton’s presentation).

***

My research on this area is ongoing and this workshop has been helpful for me in solidifying some ideas about where to go next. Anyone interested in participating in future stages of self-study and action research can email me for details: joanne.hill@beds.ac.uk.

The Padlet remains open access for any further reflections, links or examples to be added.

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Conference abstract: PETE knowledge of sociocultural and social justice issues: the value of personal and professional experience in building a knowledge base

This is the abstract for a forthcoming presentation to be presented at the British Educational Research Association annual conference, September 2017. It is from the Social Justice in PETE project.

Joanne Hill and Jennifer Walton-Fisette

Discussions about the requisite knowledge base for pre- and in-service teachers of Physical Education (PE) have included the ability to teach about socio-cultural issues or in line with social justice educational values (e.g. equity, democracy). Limited research; however, on the knowledge base that their Physical Education Teacher Educators (PETEs) have and draw upon during teacher education in university has been conducted. Indeed, there has been little research into teacher educators’ own professional development, despite their role/investment in the professional development of both pre-service and in-service teachers.
The focus of this paper is how PETE and Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy (PESP) university faculty have come to their knowledge and understanding of sociocultural issues and issues of social justice. The guiding research questions were:
1. What do PETEs know about socio-cultural issues and social justice?
2. How was this knowledge constructed?
3. What knowledge do they draw upon in their teaching?
4. What examples, what sources of knowledge, do they use? Where do their examples come from?
Vygostky’s social constructivist learning theory, specifically the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) was used to frame this research study.
Over 70 PETE and PESP faculty from the USA, New Zealand, UK, Sweden, Australia and Ireland engaged in an in-depth interview, completed a demographic survey on their social identity and professional experiences, and shared materials from their PETE and PESP programmes, such as course handbooks and assignment instructions.
This knowledge construction includes personal and professional lived experiences, formal study or qualifications, and experiences in the field (i.e., with pre-service teachers and/or in schools). Some PETE and PESP faculty reported little knowledge of socio-cultural issues and, usually, little inclusion of this content in their programmes. Many of those who expressed a commitment to teaching about and for social justice had personal and professional experiences that had caused them to recognise the need for educating their students about sociocultural issues. For instance, some had encountered marginalisation and discrimination based on their identity, or their personal politics motivated them to teach for and about justice and equity. These personal experiences could be used as content or initiate reflection in PETE and PESP classrooms. This study prompts consideration of the professional development needs of teacher educators on sociocultural issues and about social justice that goes beyond acknowledging their existence and moving towards changes in pedagogical practices in PETE and PESP programmes.

I will present at BERA on 7th September 2017, 2pm, at the University of Sussex.

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: 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!

Social justice in teaching and the value of caring

There are many nice things about doing research with other people but one of the best things about being part of a group is the possibility of reflecting on your progress and sharing the responses you have to what participants tell you.

I was doing just this one evening last week, 16th June 2016, as a member of my research group had shared how her students had responded to her telling them about an incident or a turn in her own life and experiences.

We are researching the place of social justice and socio-cultural issues in Physical Education Teacher Education programmes. I am in my share of the data generation phase in universities mainly in the UK at the moment (it’s an international project covering the USA and NZ as well). I replied to my research group to appreciate the story that had been shared and to express what value there is in doing work on social justice: it can be hard but energising – vital maybe. I said that a recent interview participant of mine had said something on these lines recently: we teach social justice because we just have to … it is about fairness in all aspects of life, not just in sport or physical education but because those fields feed into and from all our social worlds. Because we care and want a better world.

We were reflecting at the time on the aftermath of the Orlando shooting in the USA so our thoughts were geared towards how we can respond to these events and the hate that caused them in our teaching and research about social justice. I had also seen the news that day that MP Jo Cox had been attacked and was in hospital.

It’s not just an abstract concept, social justice; we are dealing with real lives and events, not political correctness. The personal stories make all the difference.

After I sent the email, I looked at the news and learnt that Jo Cox had died as a result of her injuries. The email conversation then seemed to mean so much more to me.

There are not always opportunities to tell our students we care nor might we often demonstrate it (emotional labour being something that might be sidelined in neoliberal academic practice) but one of the elements of teaching social justice and socio-cultural issues must be being a socially just and caring teacher. Addressing the ‘isms’ in education (Dodds, 1993) gets more complex all the time: no longer just sexism, racism and ablism but homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia affect teaching and learning in physical education, and then I can’t forget teaching about privilege: class, racial and male privilege, also British citizenship privilege and English speaking privilege seem important now.

I support the things Jo Cox stood for and worked hard for, though I didn’t know of her before 16th June. I am also REMAIN for the EU referendum. I have read so many powerful arguments for remaining over the last few days and cannot articulate it as well, so in brief. We are better as a part of the EU for our environment, our universities, our rights and because being part of something larger – not turning away from others – is important. Being in the EU isn’t just about immigration and refugees, but a lot of the words being expended around the referendum have been about those topics. While anyone’s individual vote to leave might not be xenophobic, that is what the leave campaign has been built on. Leave proposes a Britain that is insular and right wing (also, they aren’t going to spend any saved money on the NHS). I vote remain to say that the type of country I want is one that welcomes, connects, cares and works with other people across difference because this is part of social justice work to me.

Dodds, P. (1993). Removing the ugly ‘isms’ in your gym: Thoughts for teachers on equity. In Evans, J. (ed.) Equality, education and physical education, 28-39. London: Falmer Press

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