• 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, 2015-11-20)
      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’.
    • Experiences and Outcomes of Preschool Physical Education: an analysis of developmental discourses in Scottish curricular documentation

      McEvilly, Nollaig; University of Chester (Sage, 2014-03-03)
      This article provides an analysis of developmental discourses underpinning preschool physical education in Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence. Implementing a post-structural perspective, the article examines the preschool experiences and outcomes related to physical education as presented in the Curriculum for Excellence ‘health and wellbeing’ documentation. The article interrogates the ways in which developmental discourses are evident throughout this and related documentation and how these discourses might ‘work’ to produce specific effects on practitioners and children as they are deployed and taken up in Scottish preschool education contexts. This analysis involves speculating about potential consequences for practitioners' and children's experiences and subjectivities. In conclusion, it is suggested that practitioners should critically engage with the curriculum, as uncritical acceptance of the discourses underpinning it could lead to practices that may have negative consequences. Furthermore, the article proposes that future research should investigate the ways in which the discourses privileged in the Curriculum for Excellence ‘health and wellbeing’ documentation are taken up and negotiated in Scottish preschool settings.
    • ‘Just stretch it out and try to dance’: Young Irish dancers’ views and experiences of pain and injury

      Pentith, Rebecca; McEvilly, Nollaig; University of Chester (Graduate Journal of Sport, Exercise & Physical Education Research, 2018-11-16)
      Dancers frequently experience pain and injury due to the physical demands of performance. Previous research primarily focuses on professional dancers over the age of 18 years, and Irish dance has been largely unexplored, with research from a sociological perspective particularly lacking. To address these gaps, the purpose of this study was to explore the influence of the culture of Irish dance on young female dancers’ views and experiences of pain and injury. Data were generated through semi-structured interviews with eight girls (aged 11-16 years) from an Irish dance academy in the North West of England. We analysed the data by engaging in thematic analysis, and drew on Bourdieu’s concepts (habitus and capital, in particular) to explain our findings. Key themes within the data were: the values of Irish dance; trust and teamwork; and strength and weakness. The findings show that Irish dancers make sacrifices to achieve success, and the culture of Irish dance encourages them to dance through pain and injury in order to appear strong. While dancers recognise the potential consequences of injury and believe it is beneficial to take time away from training to recover, they are often encouraged (and encourage each other) to persevere through pain and injury. The findings suggest that there are some potentially harmful consequences of the Irish dance culture, as pain and injury are normalised. We suggest that coaches (and parents/guardians) should encourage young dancers to engage with self-care, and ensure they are not risking their future health and wellbeing by dancing through pain and injury.
    • Moving primary physical education forward: start at the beginning

      Jess, Mike; McEvilly, Nollaig; Carse, Nicola; The University of Edinburgh; University of Chester; The University of Edinburgh (Taylor & Francis, 2016-03-07)
      This paper presents selected findings from a questionnaire completed by 509 primary school teachers in Scotland. Drawing on policy enactment theory, the paper focusses on teachers’ personal experiences of physical education and perceptions of the importance of physical education in their schools. More than half (56%) reported that physical education was either ‘very important’ or ‘important’, while almost 40% perceived it to be of ‘limited’ or ‘very limited importance’. ‘Staff’, ‘time’ and ‘subject status’ were the main themes they drew on to explain their responses. Our findings highlight the diverse nature of the physical education professional cultures in Scottish primary schools. From this, we propose that future initiatives to support change in primary physical education should, as a starting point, acknowledge these diverse professional cultures and move beyond the simplistic one-size-fits-all change projects that have been shown to have limited impact on practice.
    • ‘No pain, no gain’: former elite female gymnasts’ engagements with pain and injury discourses

      Tynan, Ruby; McEvilly, Nollaig; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2017-05-11)
      This paper investigates former elite female gymnasts’ views and experiences of pain and injury. The purpose of the study was to examine how participants engaged with pain and injury discourses and interrogate the ways in which certain knowledge and practices had become dominant. A Foucaultian theoretical framework underpinned the study, making use of Foucault’s work on discourses, power and resistance. Data were generated through semi-structured interviews with seven former elite gymnasts. By analysing the participants’ talk through poststructural discourse analysis, three themes were identified. Firstly, participants’ persistence through pain and injury was due to the desire to compete. Secondly, participants differentiated between ‘good pain’ and ‘bad pain’. Thirdly, participants had a higher tolerance for pain than for injury. This research raises questions about the dominance of a ‘no pain, no gain’ discourse, and the ways in which gymnasts may develop an uncritical acceptance of particular ‘truths’ surrounding pain and injury.
    • 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, 2013-12-16)
      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.