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Investigating Socio-critical Discourses in Assessment of Senior Physical Education in New Zealand

There has been a growing interest in and, to some extent, adoption of, ‘socio-critical’ discourses in Health and Physical Education (HPE) in New Zealand and in physical education internationally. Evidence of a paradigm shift involving ‘socio-critical’ discourses is reflected in curriculum documents, course developments and assessment. With a gap in the research that addresses assessment practice in senior physical education in New Zealand, this study explored the selection, interpretation and application of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 1-3 standards. A case study methodology was used to generate in-depth insights into the factors influencing patterns of selection and non- selection of those standards explicitly linked to socio-critical discourses. NZQA data on national standard selection in NCEA Level 1-3 physical education from 2006 to 2010 was analysed to inform the case study selection and inquiry. Four teachers at two schools were involved in the research. Data collection methods included document reading, archival records, semi-structured interviews (individual), and a reflective diary. Data analysis was based on Miles and Huberman’s (1994) data management and analysis methods. The key findings showed that factors influencing selection / non-selection of socio-critical standards are complex and decision-making about selection can involve dichotomous thinking. The latter was associated with socio-critical and biophysical discourses, theoretical and practical knowledge and learning, body and mind, and physical education and health as separate knowledge bases. The data provided insight into the impact that issues associated with standard selection and interpretation can have in relation to teachers’ design of teaching and learning programmes, students’ pedagogical experiences and assessment associated with NCEA physical education. Furthermore, teachers’ own habitus, beliefs, value orientation, language and pedagogical practice were shown to have a strong influence on understandings and application of standards. Issues of alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy were also explored. The study highlights the importance of teachers’ understanding of the tensions, knowledge structures and power relations at play between curriculum, assessment and pedagogy. Data revealed important ways in which these matters inform and limit understandings of what constitutes legitimate and valued practice and learning in senior physical education. Implications of this inquiry are explored for educational policy developers, senior secondary HPE teachers, all HPE teachers, HPE departments, pre-service teacher educators, senior secondary teachers working in other subject/learning areas and research. An extensive list of recommendations has been made. Several areas are identified as requiring further research. Further exploration of teachers’ habitus, beliefs and values and the influence these have on the alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy would be useful. In addition research into ‘holistic’ physical education ‘in’, ‘through’ and ‘about’ movement, in the context of NCEA, would facilitate more accurate and meaningful conclusions about teaching and learning and assessment experiences for secondary school students in NCEA physical education.
Type of thesis
Hart, S. A. (2014). Investigating Socio-critical Discourses in Assessment of Senior Physical Education in New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8984
University of Waikato
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