Lena Larsson1, Göran Gerdin1, Maureen Legge3, Susanne Linnér1,
Kjersti Mordal Moen2, Rod Philpot3, Katarina Schenker1,
Wayne Smith3, Åsa Tugetam1, Knut Westlie2 and Åsa Wiberg1
1 Linnaeus University,
2 Inland Norway University of Applied Science,
3 University of Auckland
Education for Equitable Health Outcomes – the Promise of School Health and Physical Education (EDUHEALTH), is a collaborative research project that builds upon an existing working relationship between Linnaeus University (LNU) Sweden, University of Auckland (UoA) New Zealand, and Inland Norway University of Applied Science (INN), Norway. EDUHEALTH is a Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) project as part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions European Commission Horizon 2020 call. In September 2016 the project was granted funding (€102,500) over 36 months (2017-2019).
The EDUHEALTH project which involves both extended staff exchanges (secondments) and research activities, has an overall aim of contributing to our understanding of how teachers of school health and physical education (HPE) teach for social justice. The research questions guiding the project are: (i) How do HPE teachers’ practices address democracy and social justice? (ii) How may HPE practice contribute to greater inclusion and equitable health outcomes for all students? The EDUHEALTH project seeks to explore how such ‘socially-critical’ HPE teaching practices are enacted. Central to this question is what qualifies as teaching for social justice in HPE. This focus includes questions of how teachers can empower rather than marginalise students in HPE practice regardless of sociocultural factors such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity and social class.
Data is gathered through observations of HPE teachers in each of the three countries. The observations are followed by interviews that explore ‘captured incidents’ of practices that appear to foreground democracy and social justice. The findings will be used to develop teaching strategies that are intended to assist HPE teachers to refine and develop their practices on order to become more inclusive and engaging for all students, thus contributing to more equitable health outcomes in HPE.
The lead partner of the project is LNU in Sweden with Lena Larsson, senior lecturer and former head of school for the department of sport science, being the project coordinator. Further participants from LNU include senior lecturers Göran Gerdin, Susanne Linnér and Katarina Schenker, lecturer Åsa Wiberg and PhD student Åsa Tugetam. INN in Norway is represented by associate professor Kjersti Mordal Moen and lecturer Knut Westlie (ESR). Participating from UoA in New Zealand are associate professor Wayne Smith and senior lecturers Rod Philpot and Maureen Legge. Emeritus Professor Richard Tinning from the University of Queensland in Australia acts as the project’s key mentor.
During the first year, the EDUHEALTH team has focused on trying to develop and refine methods for identifying and examining critical incidents/actions that address democracy and social justice. School visits in each country have been followed by discussions about the focus/method of observation, how to capture critical incidents, how to share observations, etc. In order to reach a common/shared understanding, the EDUHEALTH team continuously work on a methodological and theoretical framework for the project. Within each country a pilot study has been conducted where HPE classes have been observed and where teachers been interviewed.
The project was officially launched March 2017 in Auckland where the project team, (three researchers seconded from LNU and two seconded from INN), were hosted by UoA. To create a greater understanding and shared knowledge of each other’s specific context, time was spent visiting three different schools in the Auckland region. Additionally, the research team presented on their respective societal and educational context, with a specific focus on contemporary issues of democracy, equity and social justice, as related to HPE and PETE. The discussion within the team involved the recognition that understanding and researching HPE across different contexts offers both opportunities and challenges, including the acknowledgment that social justice might have different meanings both between and within different countries.
The EDUHEALTH project has required involved long-distance, online (Skype) discussions, face-to-face discussions during secondments, as well as observations of schools in each country and pilot observations and interviews. This collaborative and knowledge sharing work has resulted in working papers that have been presented at faculty and/or departmental seminars in all three countries.
At the annual conference of the European Education Research Association (EERA) – European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Copenhagen, Denmark, August 22-25 – the EDUHEALTH team presented the project. As part of the EERA network 18 ‘Research in Sport Pedagogy’, the EDUHEALTH team hosted a symposium titled ‘EDUHEALTH – Educating for equitable health outcomes in physical education. Sweden, Norway and New Zealand in a Horizon 2020 project’. The chair, Professor Karin Redelius from GIH (Swedish School of Exercise and Sport Science), Stockholm introduced the symposium. During the symposium, the team presented the background and focus of the EDUHEALTH project, the respective PETE contexts of each of the three countries, and the challenges and opportunities of researching social justice and health (in)equality across different school HPE contexts. The discussant, Professor Øyvind Standal from Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (now OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University) in Norway, summarised the symposium presentations and challenged the EDUHEALTH research team with the following questions:
- How do the differences in this school subject across the three countries involved in the project hinder joint communication? What do those differences mean for research and how may the differences enable or detract from comparisons?
- On one level, PE contributing to equitable health outcomes is a very laudable goal, but how realistic is it?
- Can schools and PE in particular fix what is wrong with society? Health inequalities are to a large extent structural inequalities, issues for politicians rather than PE teachers and their students.
- What, more precisely, are equitable health outcomes? When do we have such a state of affairs? How do we know?
- How can we determine when or to what extent health is equitably provided across gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion and social class, as you are interested in?
- What is your conception of social justice in relation to health outcomes and HPE practice?
These are both important and productive questions which continue to inform the ongoing knowledge sharing and data gathering activities as the EDUHEALTH project continues to move forward. After the conference in Copenhagen, the New Zealand research team members were seconded to Sweden and Norway. Together with the Swedish and Norwegian members they visited PETE programmes and school HPE classes and they met both PETE teacher educators and HPE teachers.
The most recent secondment in New Zealand during March and April 2018 have involved four of the Swedish and two of the Norwegian researchers being seconded to and participating in the data collection across schools in Auckland. In New Zealand data gathering for the project commenced, and the process will be continued in Norway and Sweden in September 2018. Good examples of practices were both observed and explored in the interviews. The initial findings and analysis have generated discussions in the EDUHEALTH team how these social justice HPE practices can and/or should cross cultural/national lines. Both the good examples and how these practices can translate into practice across different school HPE contexts will be further examined in upcoming secondments in Sweden and Norway, in September 2018.
Later this year, the EDUHEALTH team will present initial findings from their first round of data collection in New Zealand at a symposium entitled ‘Researching Social Justice and Health (in)Equality across different School Health and Physical Education’ as part of the 2018 ECER in Bolzano, Italy (September 3–7). The symposium will consist of three papers that articulate the research methods and theoretical tools for analysis and present the initial findings of the project to date. Emeritus Professor Jan Wright (University of Wollongong, Australia), will act as the discussant for this symposium.
In 2019, the third and last EU-funded year of the EDUHEALTH project, the focus will be on analysis and dissemination of research findings. The dissemination phase will also involve working with HPE teachers in all three countries, sharing findings, and exploring with teachers how to further address and promote social justice in HPE practice. In addition, the research team intends to inform the curricula for both PETE and in-service teacher education.
Understanding and researching HPE across different contexts offers both opportunities and challenges. Professor Øyvind Standal’s last question at the 2017 ECER symposium‘What is your conception of social justice in relation to health outcomes and HPE practice?’ remains a conundrum. For now, we argue that definitions of both ‘social justice’ and ‘health outcomes’ are bound by contexts that need to be understood to better understand HPE teachers’ practices in different countries.
Copyright © The Authors 2018
For more information about the project,
see the project’s website: https://lnu.se/en/eduhealth