An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Grade 8 Students’ Physical Education Experiences in Nova Scotia
Zahavich, Jeffery Bruce Lloyd
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In Nova Scotia, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is responsible for overseeing curriculum changes and providing physical education (PE) teachers with professional development opportunities and training regarding new curriculum implementation. The current Nova Scotia PE curriculum for Grades 7-9 aims to enhance students’ health and continued development of physical literacy; however, there is limited information available about how the curriculum is being implemented or the types of transferable skills students are acquiring as a result. Examining students’ PE experiences helps with understanding their perspective of and relationship with physical activity. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to examine the social and environmental factors that influence Grade 8 students’ PE experiences. The research aimed to build knowledge on how PE is being supported in Nova Scotia with the goal of providing PE students and teachers a greater local voice in the pursuit of making PE a priority. Elements of Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology were applied, where 18 Grade 8 students (7 females and 11 males) were placed in the centre of the investigation. Supplemental interview data from six PE teachers (4 females and 2 males) and document analysis of the PE curriculum were used to support students’ reported experiences collected via focus group discussions. The research was contextualized within a Socio-Ecological Model, which represented the social environments within the PE community. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis which revealed six themes representing the key issues that influence students’ PE experiences. Themes included: (1) student engagement, (2) varying views of PE’s purpose, (3) role of the PE teacher, (4) low status of school PE, (5) comprehensive school health, and (6) red tape policies. Based on students’ and teachers’ reported experiences, two sets of recommendations are presented. The first set is for PE teachers from students, and the second is for PE policymakers from PE teachers. Results may be used to provide guidance for the planning, development, implementation and delivery of future PE curriculum, and to advance our knowledge of the current curriculum as to how it is being experienced by students, perceived by teachers, and supported in schools.