Socially Constructed and Embodied Meanings of Effectiveness in the Lives of Physical Education Teachers.

Alan Thomson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding (ISBN)peer-review


While teacher effectiveness research is well established (Day et al, 2007, Day & Gu, 2010), much of it centres around linking teaching to pupil achievement and identifying specific teacher characteristics. In physical education, little evidence so far has been generated through gaining an understanding of teachers’ experiences and by listening to their voices (Tsangaridou, 2006). To establish how physical educators have come to conceptualise effectiveness, this inquiry moves away from simply documenting teachers’ assertions, to focus upon effectiveness construction through the contexts of their professional and personal lives. In understanding how effectiveness has been socially constructed, it was necessary to use a flexible approach that considered teacher subjectivities. An ethnographic study was conducted in the physical education department at Northton High School* over a period of nine months. Methods were guided by Wolcott’s (2008) thinking around experience, enquire and examine, and specific data were generated using participant observation, a field-work diary, biographical semi-structured interviews, and by scrutinising school documentation. The resulting data were subject to thematic analysis, while a series of life-history narratives were used to demonstrate an understanding of how effectiveness came to be conceptualised by the different teachers in the department. Overall findings highlighted how differing sets of beliefs about the nature of physical education operated amidst several whole school discourses that focused specifically upon the teachers meeting Ofsted criteria for ‘Outstanding’ teaching, and sustaining high levels of examination success. This led to contestation, co-operation and conflict, as power was used micropolitically to consolidate and strengthen the afore-mentioned whole school discourses, and ultimately leading to performative and normalised teaching behaviours. To help develop teaching to consistently ‘Outstanding’ levels, a CPD initiative based upon Ofsted criteria was introduced and used as an instrument to fabricate the Senior Leaders’ vision for effectiveness. This normalised the dominant discourses and led to the CPD initiative being used by Senior Leaders as a disciplinary surveillant mechanism, rather than a pedagogical tool. Teachers were seen to be nameless faceless bodies valued only for generating a series of results that would deem them, and thereby the school to be effective. As well as informing how effectiveness was ‘performed’ (Ball, 2003), the research also detailed the ways in which PE teachers’ embodied effectiveness, and demonstrated how their identities were constructed through (re)negotiating the biographical, social, political and cultural contexts. The inquiry thus recognises that physical education teachers’ understandings of effectiveness are socially constructed and must take into account the contextual nature of their lives, and the complex environments of schools.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNot Known
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 May 2017
EventSocially Constructed and Embodied Meanings of Effectiveness in the Lives of Physical Education Teachers - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jul 201711 Jul 2017


ConferenceSocially Constructed and Embodied Meanings of Effectiveness in the Lives of Physical Education Teachers
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Teacher effectiveness
  • ethnography
  • social construction
  • neoliberalism
  • subjectivities
  • physical education.


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