• Developing children: developmental discourses underpinning physical education at three Scottish preschool settings

      McEvilly, Nollaig; Atencio, Matthew; Verheul, Martine; University of Chester; California State University; The University of Edinburgh (Taylor & Francis, 20/11/2015)
      This paper reports on one aspect of a study that investigated the place and meaning of ‘physical education’ to practitioners and children at three preschool settings in Scotland. We employed a poststructural type of discourse analysis to examine the developmental discourses the 14 participating practitioners drew on when talking about ‘physical education’ at preschools, during semi-structured interviews. Three main discourses around the notion of developmentalism were identified during analysis of the adults’ interview data: (1) preschool children learn and develop through play; (2) preschool children should have choices and freedom; and (3) sometimes more structured activities are needed. The practitioners were heavily invested in developmental ‘truths’ about how preschool children learn and develop. They were in agreement that play is a vital element of preschool education, and that, consequently, children should be provided with opportunities for exploration and making choices. However, they also talked about sometimes ‘needing’ to restrict children’s freedom and provide more adult-led activities. Our findings illustrate the strength of developmental discourses at the three settings. We suggest that preschool practitioners, as well as policy-makers and researchers, should critically reflect on the effects of taken-for-granted developmental discourses, and move beyond thinking in terms of binaries such as ‘physical education versus play’ or ‘structure versus freedom’.
    • Physical education at preschools: practitioners’ and children’s engagements with physical activity and health discourses

      McEvilly, Nollaig; Verheul, Martine; Atencio, Matthew; University of Chester; The University of Edinburgh; California State University (Taylor & Francis, 16/12/2013)
      This paper focuses on one aspect of a qualitative study concerned with investigating the place and meaning of ‘physical education’ to practitioners and children at three preschools in Scotland. We examine the ways in which the participants engaged with discourses related to physical activity and health in order to construct their subjectivities. Fourteen practitioners and 70 children participated. Research methods employed were observations, interviews with adults, a group drawing and discussion activity with children, and interviews with children. Both the adults’ and children’s talk illustrated the dominance of neoliberal, healthism meanings which position individuals as responsible for their own health. While the children’s talk primarily centred on health as a corporeal notion, the practitioners tended to talk about physical activity and health in both corporeal terms and in relation to the self more holistically. The practitioners also talked about physical activity as a means of regulating children’s behaviour.