Affected by movement: A qualitative exploration of 10-year-old children’s experiences from a school-based physical activity intervention
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The theme of the thesis is children’s movement in school and the focus is on the children and children’s own ways of moving – alone and together with others. Questions that guide the process address variations of children’s movement and further what kind of movement opportunities the school institution provides for children today. The point of departure is a tension between movement in measurable effects and movement as a meaningful affective experience. Concerns for children spending excessive time on sedentary activities and the potential consequences for their health and learning are widespread in contemporary society. One consequence and the context of the thesis is intervention studies and initiatives, which aim to increase time devoted to physical activity (PA). The thesis is further situated within the sphere of humanistic and social sciences, where human beings, experiences and meaning is the prime area of interest. The data material is produced through qualitative methods, and it consists mainly of children’s movement and experiences in physical education (PE), physical active educational lessons (PAE lessons) and physical active breaks (PA breaks). Children in the study were aged 9-10 (5th grade) who participated in a larger school intervention study – Active Smarter Kids (ASK Study) in Sogn og Fjordane in Western Norway in the school year 2014/2015. In total 98 children from four schools (two intervention schools and two control schools) consented to participation in the qualitative study. After a drawing and writing task, 32 children were selected for further in-depth interviews and observation. Complementary to children’s expressions and experiences, the data material includes also interviews with their teachers. Theoretically, the thesis is inspired by Baruch Spinoza, affect theories, and the phenomenologists Jonathan Smith, Thomas Fusch and Sabine Koch. This perspective is used to explore children’s movement in relation to other people, in particular situations and environments, and to understand both passive and active aspects of movement. The findings particularly illuminate the affective aspects of children’s movement, how children both choose to move and are drawn to move. The findings indicate further that children’s experiences of movement in school are ambivalent. Children are drawn to move both when they are encouraged to and when they are supposed to sit still. The majority of children like PE, PAE lessons and PA breaks. They explain that they like to move better than to sit in a class. Although children desire to move, they experience many activities as boring and repetitive with little opportunity to follow their own sensations and interests. Children experience the institutional framework, teacher’s instructions and structures of many activities as limiting. Paradoxically, when an opportunity to choose arises, children are drawn to repeat activities with which they are already familiar and enjoy. Furthermore, movement in school both facilitates “togetherness” between children but also established an arena where some children feel weaker than others, are excluded or mocked. The contribution of the thesis is complementary to physiological and cognitive-oriented research. The findings bring out bodily engagement, sensations and emotions as central aspects of children’s movement. They point to an important discussion about what kinds of activity can be chosen in school. In addition, the findings indicate that there is a need to discuss how children relate to one another and the world and how their own sensations can be acknowledged in a school context. Furthermore, many questions need to be asked in order to provide children with socially safe and supporting learning environments in school and to take account of the tensions and ambivalences that arise when children move alone and together with others.
Avhandling (doktorgrad) - Norges idrettshøgskole, 2018