Background: Physical Education (PE) has been associated with a multiactivity model in which movement is related to sport discourses and sport techniques. However, as in many international contexts, the Swedish national PE syllabus calls for a wider and more inclusive concept of movement. Complex movement adapted to different settings is valued, and in the national grading criteria qualitative measures of movement are used. This research seeks to examine how the wider concept of movement is interpreted and graded. Drawing on Bernstein’s concept of the pedagogic device, the paper explores teachers’ roles as active mediators in the transformation of national grading criteria for movement and the kinds of movement that are valued in teachers’ grading practices. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate what PE teachers consider legitimate movement in a criterionreferenced grading system and the factors that influence their grading practice. The Repertory Grid (RG) technique was employed in order to access their tacit knowledge. Methodology: Seven Swedish PE teachers were interviewed, all of whom teach and grade years seven to nine in different compulsory schools. Using the RG technique, the teachers were asked to reflect on the aspects they considered important for achieving a high grade. The national grading criteria for years seven to nine were then presented one at a time and the teachers were asked to describe how they assessed and graded each requirement. The teachers were also asked whether any specific factors had influenced their grading. In the content analysis, the second part of the interview was attended to first and the results were interpreted in light of Bernsteins’ concept of the pedagogic device. Findings: Sport techniques and competitive sports influenced the teachers’ interpretations of what constitutes complex movement. The aspect of fitness also appeared to be valued by the teachers in that it facilitates the valued movement. In some cases the difficulty of describing movement qualities in words could reduce the concept of movement to something measurable and quantifiable. The teachers’ concerns about students’ unequal opportunities to develop and demonstrate their skills also influenced the teachers’ interpretation of complex movement. Conclusions: In the transformation of national grading criteria to grading practice, the pedagogic actions taken inform and limit the way in which legitimate movement in PE is conceptualised. Adopting a concept of movement that is wider than competitive sports allows the structures of inequality to be addressed and enables the movements performed by students with other moving experiences than competitive sports to be valued. The tension between the demands of transparency in a high stakes grading system and the inability to articulate the quality of complex movements is problematic. There is a need to verbalise teachers’ conceptions about physical education knowledge to be able to discuss and develop the concept of movement. In this process, the RG technique is a potentially useful tool. Having the language to discuss movement qualities also enables us to strengthen the interrelation between curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.
In the thesis the aim is to investigate different aspects of what teachers value when grading in Swedish physical education (PE) and to analyses how sociological background factors impact students’ grades. Grades in PE have included aspects other than those prescribed in the grading criteria, for instance motivation and effort. Teachers sometimes find their value-setting difficult to articulate and refer to a “gut feeling”. In order to explore both explicit and implicit forms of value-setting, the Repertory Grid interview technique is employed.
The thesis includes four sub-studies, three interview studies with Swedish PE teachers and a fourth study based on registry data from the Swedish National Agency for Education. The data of all students leaving nine-year compulsory school in 2014 (n=95317) is analysed to explore how sociological background factors, such as migration background, parents’ education, school provider and gender, affect PE grades.
The results reveal aspects of grading that are not detectable in the official description of the grading assignment and highlight problems that teachers need to address when grading. Four themes are discerned in the teachers’ grading practices: motivation, knowledge, confidence and social skills. The implementation of a new national curriculum with specified knowledge requirements seems to improve the alignment with the national criteria, but there is still a gap between policy and practice. The knowledge requirements for movement are often interpreted as performances in competitive sports, even if the teachers try to find other interpretations. The odds ratio for getting a higher grade in PE is greater for the variables migration background and parents’ education than for the other investigated variables. The concepts formulated by Bernstein are applied to explore the relations between teachers’ grading practices and cultural and political influences and to discuss how the tensions between different interests could affect teachers’ grading.
The conclusion is that the gap between policy and practice confirmed in this study is related to tensions between the interests and purposes of different agents, all of whom strive to influence steering documents and practice. Cultural and political influences need to be considered and facilitate discussions about how to understand which knowledge is valued in PE and who has better possibilities to assimilate it.