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Nyberg, Gunn
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Nyberg, G. & Larsson, H. (2014). Exploring ‘what’ to learn in physical education. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 19(2), 123-135
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring ‘what’ to learn in physical education
2014 (English)In: Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, ISSN 1740-8989, E-ISSN 1742-5786, Vol. 19, no 2, p. 123-135Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: The aim of this article is to show a need for explicating ‘what’ there is to learn in physical education (PE) with a particular focus on learning to move with the meaning potential seen as integral to moving. Further, the aim is to provide an example of exploring ‘bodily knowing’ from the perspective of practical epistemology as outlined by researchers such as Michael Polanyi, Allan Janik and Gilbert Ryle.

Background : Learning has been a prominent issue within the PE research for quite some time. Overviews of research show that the object of learning, the ‘what-aspect’ within the didactic triangle, has been taken into account, though the obvious focus is the ‘how-aspect’, as in how learning occurs. In PE, the ‘what-aspect’, according to teachers as well as pupils, is vague, and the aim of the subject is expressed in terms of ‘fun-aspects’ rather than ‘what-aspects’. Taking a standpoint from research concerning aims, content and important knowledge in PE in Sweden, with reference to international research, this article will shed light upon physical activity as a takenfor-granted content, conceptualized either as an instrument for fulfilling the demands of the contemporary health-discourse or an instrument for performing well in sports. In doing this, the article will argue for the urgent need of explicating what capabilities students are supposed to develop in PE.

Key concepts: The concept of knowledge in relation to PE will be discussed. Drawing on Janik’s discussion of the epistemological structure of practical professional knowledge, emphasizing the importance of making the base of knowledge explicit, capability to move will be regarded as an object of learning, a possible ‘what-aspect’, in PE. To overcome the boundaries between practical and theoretical knowledge, Polanyi’s concept knowing will be used. Conceiving knowings as embracing several aspects of knowledge as well as comprising both mental and physical processes, knowings in human movement will be elaborated.

Conclusion: As our initial overview of research about ways of reasoning about knowledge and learning in PE suggested, there is an imminent need to systematically develop a language for learning in PE where what to learn, the specific knowings that PE is nurturing, is paramount, and where this ‘what’ is not reduced to superficial knowledge about health issues or physical skills. We believe that exploring the ‘knowing how’ aspect of learning will highlight potential ‘knowings’ in human movement. Following the concept ‘knowing’ as in line with Ryle’s ‘knowing how’, not separating mental and physical skills, can serve as an analytical tool and a starting point for articulating examples of ‘knowings’ as objects of learning and thus providing opportunities to conceptualize human movement in terms of knowing and learning.

physical education, learning, movement, knowledge, knowing how
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-3301 (URN)10.1080/17408989.2012.726982 (DOI)000332197400001 ()
Available from: 2012-12-25 Created: 2014-04-23 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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