Physical education as a developmental asset in the everyday life of adolescents. A relational approach to the study of basic need satisfaction in PE and global self-worth development
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Introduction: The Norwegian physical education (PE) curriculum describes PE as a subject concerned with students’ positive development and learning (Utdanningsdirektoratet [the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training], 2015b). From a process-relational perspective, positive development and learning require a “relational fit” (Säfvenbom, Wheaton, & Agans, 2018, p. 4) between the individual characteristics that students bring to PE (internal developmental assets) and characteristics relating to the PE context (external developmental assets). The quality of student ↔ subject fit is revealed by students’ descriptions of their experiences of participation in PE. Prior research suggests that the quality of this fit depends on student involvement in leisure-time movement contexts (e.g., Kjønniksen, Fjørtoft, & Wold, 2009; Koka & Hein, 2003; Säfvenbom, Haugen, & Bulie, 2015; Viira & Koka, 2012). These findings contrast with the Norwegian Education Act and the Norwegian PE curriculum, which guarantees every student’s right to an education that aligns with his or her individual abilities and aptitudes (Opplæringslova [the Norwegian Education Act], 1998) and which requires schools to offer students equal access to opportunities for positive development and learning in PE regardless of physical capability or sports competence (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2015b). Aim: In light of the contradiction between the above-mentioned research suggesting that sports-active students “reap most of the benefits” from PE (Säfvenbom et al., 2015, p. 629) and the concept of PE as a developmental asset for all, this thesis aims to develop knowledge on the relational fit between the PE subject and students with diverse leisure-time movement involvements. To achieve this, the thesis draws on theoretical perspectives from Relational Developmental Systems metatheory (RDS) and Self-determination theory (SDT) and investigates students’ experience of basic need satisfaction in PE and how it relates to their sense of global self-worth. Methods and design: Positioned within the process-relational paradigm (Lerner, 2018), this thesis applies both quantitative (papers I, II, and III) and qualitative (paper IV) methods. Papers I and II are based on a quantitative observational study, whereas papers III and IV are based on a programme-assessment study. Paper I applies a cross-sectional design based on T1 data from 2854 adolescents in lower and upper secondary school, and investigates potential differences in the level of basic need satisfaction in PE among students who differ in terms of leisure-time movement involvements. Paper I also investigates the potential relationship between students’ level of basic need satisfaction in PE and their global self-worth as an explicitly stated purpose of PE (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2012) and therefore an indicator of students’ positive development and learning in this subject. Paper II applies a longitudinal design, based on T1 through T3 data from 3398 students in lower and upper secondary school, to develop knowledge on the temporal relations between students’ level of basic need satisfaction in PE and their global self-worth. The programme-assessment study investigates students’ experiences of participation in a didactical differentiation-programme called Interest based PE. This programme was developed as a response to the discovery that students who were active in leisure-time sport and students who were not active in leisure-time sport did not benefit equally from PE, in an attempt to level the educational field in this subject. It aimed to optimize the relationship between PE and students with diverse movement interests by letting the students choose between two approaches to learning in PE: an explorative approach and a sports approach. Paper III applies a quantitative effect assessment of students’ participation in Interest based PE based on T1 (baseline), T2, and T3 data from 348 Interest-based PE participants in lower and upper secondary school, and 345 assigned controls. This paper aimed to investigate potential quantitative changes in students’ basic need satisfaction over the course of the programme. Paper IV applies qualitative semi-structured one-on-one interviews with 16 secondary school students (grade 13, ages 17-18) and aims to provide a deeper understanding of potential qualitative changes in the relations between the PE subject and students who were involved in Interest-based PE. Results and discussion: Findings suggest that skills developed in football, track and field, and other leisure time sports are important internal developmental assets (Benson, Scales, Leffert, & Roehlkepartain, 1999), which in turn give adolescents access to external developmental assets in PE, including the promotion of basic need satisfaction in PE and global self-worth (paper I). Even though the PE curriculum does not intend to benefit sports-active students (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2012; 2015b), findings from papers in this thesis (paper I, III, IV) support prior research (Koka & Hein, 2003; Säfvenbom et al., 2015; Viira & Koka, 2012) indicating that sports-active students are systematically better off in PE than their non-sports active peers. This suggests that the relational fit between students and PE is influenced by factors outside the context of PE, which relate to the context of organized leisure-time sport. This is further evidence (e.g. Aasland, Walseth, & Engelsrud, 2019; Annerstedt & Larsson, 2010; Evans, 2004; Hay & Macdonald, 2010a; Kirk, 2010; López-Pastor, Kirk, Lorente Catalán, MacPhail, & Macdonald, 2013; Säfvenbom et al., 2015) of the sports discourse’s central role in PE. This discourse may seem problematic as it is incompatible with the PE curriculum (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2012; 2015b) and the political requirement that PE serve as a developmental asset for all (Kunnskapsdepartementet [the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research], 2007; Opplæringslova, 1998). The persistence of the sports discourse in PE may explain why teachers developed Interest-based PE. However, the findings presented in paper IV suggest that PE teachers may have lacked awareness of the breadth and depth of the sports discourse and that Interest-based PE therefore was unable to challenge the sports discourse in PE. The fact that the sports discourse seemed to continue to regulate the student ↔ subject exchange in the Interest based PE programme affected students’ perceptions of this programme: not as a truly interest-based PE, but instead as a sports-centred, two-level PE. Because Interest-based PE did not change students’ (and teachers’) pre-existing ideas of PE as a subject concerned with the practice and learning of sports, separating the students into an explorative approach and a sports approach may have actually accentuated the sports discourse in PE and contributed to segregation on the basis of students’ confidence, competence, and ability in sports. The research presented in this thesis provides both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the sports discourse in PE. Our findings give reason to question whether didactical differentiation-programmes such as Interest-based PE are appropriate to optimize student ↔ subject-relations as long as the student ↔ subject exchange continues to be governed by the logic of sports.
Avhandling (doktorgrad) - Norges idrettshøgskole, 2020
Has partsPaper I: Erdvik, I. B., Haugen, T., Ivarsson, A., & Säfvenbom, R. (2019). Global self-worth among adolescents: the role of basic psychological need satisfaction in physical education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/00313831.2019.1600578
Paper II: Erdvik, I. B., Haugen, T., Ivarsson, A., & Säfvenbom, R. (2018). The temporal relations of students’ basic need satisfaction in physical education and global self-worth. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Paper III: Erdvik, I. B., Haugen, T., Ivarsson, A., & Säfvenbom, R. (in press). Development of basic psychological need satisfaction in physical education: effects of a two-year PE programme. Journal for Research in Arts and Sports Education.
Paper IV: Erdvik, I. B., Moen, K. M., & Säfvenbom, R. (2019). Student experiences with Interest-based PE: a relational perspective on a systematic differentiation programme. Manuscript submitted for publication.