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A school subject under pressure: understanding the changing means and ends of Swedish physical education and health
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5291-1549
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is concerned with exploring changes in the organization of Swedish PE, seeking to understand why certain aspects of the subject undergo alterations while others remain relatively stable. Central to this exploration is grasping the ends outlined for PE and the means employed to attain them. The ongoing debate surrounding the need for change in PE has placed the subject in a vulnerable position, susceptible to influence from various interest groups, and more likely to change according to their demands. Despite existing research focusing on various aspects of change within the subject, there remains a gap in knowledge concerning how underlying ideas regarding the purpose and realization of PE are incorporated into its means and ends. Therefore, this thesis aims to understand how shared ideas of appropriate practices in PE contribute to altered or retained organizational principles, with potential consequences for how education is realized. Employing institutional theory, the first research question examines how the research field of PE shapes legitimacy in practice, by identifying 15 dominant research topics. The second research question seeks to understand PE teachers’ actions within a broader societal context. This exploration demonstrates how four institutional logics guide PE teachers’ decision-making processes. In relation to the third research question, an institutional work perspective sheds light on processes driving certain actions towards change. Through interviews with school leaders, the results highlight four types of institutional work employed as they navigate government-initiated policy. The fourth and final research question delves into how PE teachers navigate the diverse institutional pressures affecting both symbolic and material conditions for implementing change. Employing an institutional logics perspective, the findings show that PE teachers respond to the various pressures in four different ways. The discussion scrutinizes how the actions of organizational members influence institutional structures and vice versa, enabling both change and stability within PE.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2024. , p. 118
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 0281-6768 ; 134
Keywords [en]
Physical education, organizational institutionalism, institutional logics, institutional work, organizational change, policy implementation
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-223762ISBN: 978-91-8070-370-3 (electronic)ISBN: 978-91-8070-369-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-223762DiVA, id: diva2:1854395
Public defence
2024-05-24, Hörsal F, Hum.D.220 - Hjortronlandet, Humanisthuset, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-05-03 Created: 2024-04-25 Last updated: 2024-05-17Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Mapping the research field of physical education: aims, scopes and outer boundaries
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mapping the research field of physical education: aims, scopes and outer boundaries
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-223740 (URN)
Available from: 2024-04-24 Created: 2024-04-24 Last updated: 2024-04-25
2. Logics in play: what 'rules of the game' regulate Swedish PE teachers’ decision-making processes?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Logics in play: what 'rules of the game' regulate Swedish PE teachers’ decision-making processes?
2023 (English)In: Sport, Education and Society, ISSN 1357-3322, E-ISSN 1470-1243, Vol. 28, no 7, p. 842-854Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research suggests that physical education (PE) needs to adapt to meet societies’ changing needs and increased diversity amongst pupils. However, despite growing pressure from often competing sectoral interests, educational reforms, and new curricula directed at PE to bring about such changes, research has not seen a more profound impact. Many policy initiatives often impact PE teachers, which means they are responsible for implementing desired changes. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising how research has paid limited attention to PE teachers’ decision-making processes regarding the envisaged change. To address this shortfall of understanding, this study’s aim is to explore PE teachers’ decision-making processes and how they relate to external pressures, interests, and reforms. To meet this aim, this article draws on an institutional logics perspective and uses data collected from semi-structured interviews with 16 PE teachers. Findings show how four institutional logics guide PE teachers’ decision-making processes: (a) a democracy logic, (b) an investment logic, (c) a professional logic, and (d) a bureaucracy logic. The results also show that, beyond the fact that logics legitimise certain decisions, they delegitimise other decisions, which requires PE teachers to navigate between logics in their decision-making processes. This navigating process requires PE teachers to handle multiple and incompatible ideas about what good PE is and how to conduct it. This knowledge, if utilised, can increase alignment between policy content and implementers’ interpretations, which may mitigate resistance to policy reforms and stimulate intended implementation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
Organisational change, institutional analysis, policy reform, PE teacher interpretation, institutional logics, physical education
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-194519 (URN)10.1080/13573322.2022.2071254 (DOI)000790722200001 ()2-s2.0-85132675597 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2022-05-09 Created: 2022-05-09 Last updated: 2024-04-25Bibliographically approved
3. Navigating uncertainty: how do PE teachers respond to competing institutional pressures?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Navigating uncertainty: how do PE teachers respond to competing institutional pressures?
2023 (English)In: European Journal for Sport and Society, ISSN 1613-8171, Vol. 20, no 4, p. 383-399Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Little is known about how PE teachers respond to the particularities of certain institutional pressures. Such knowledge is needed to start a discussion on how external expectations are managed by PE teachers, who in turn make internal adaptions (e.g. change in teaching elements, schedules, feedback models, work teams) that create organisational principles. Such insights might ultimately help shed new light on the origin of unintended consequences arising from policy transformation. In this study, I explored how PE teachers respond to institutional pressures embedded in policy implementation by answering the following research question: What types of responses to multiple institutional logics can be interpreted from PE teachers’ narratives about policy implementation? I utilised an institutional logics approach to analyse the data collected from 16 semistructured interviews with Swedish PE teachers. The results showed that PE teachers respond in four ways: (a) compliance, (b) defiance, (c) compartmentalisation, and (d) combination. In addition, I discuss how PE teachers negotiate competing institutional pressures and point to aspects in the organisation of teaching that are direct consequences of this process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2023
Keywords
policy, enactment, physical education, organisational analysis, institutional logics
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-205221 (URN)10.1080/16138171.2023.2182981 (DOI)000939725600001 ()2-s2.0-85149294916 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2023-02-27 Created: 2023-02-27 Last updated: 2024-04-26Bibliographically approved
4. Where the rubber hits the road: how school leaders work with government-initiated policy within physical education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Where the rubber hits the road: how school leaders work with government-initiated policy within physical education
2023 (English)In: Sport, Education and Society, ISSN 1357-3322, E-ISSN 1470-1243Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Previous research has addressed how societal demands shape ideas about appropriate practices in physical education (PE) and the consequences for those involved and for society at large. It has also highlighted the influential role of groups and organisations, including PE teachers, in shaping PE practices. However, the significance of school leaders in driving change in PE practices has been largely overlooked, despite their crucial responsibilities in decision-making, division of labour, and resource allocation. To address this gap, this study answers the following research question: what types of institutional work do Swedish school leaders engage in as they navigate government-initiated policy? Guided by the institutional work perspective and data collected in semi-structured interviews with 13 school leaders, the thematic analysis reveals that school leaders engage in structural work, operational work, conceptual work, and relational work when navigating government-initiated policy. In more empirical terms, the results indicate that most of the power to shape the implementation process is passed on to PE teachers. This suggests that although school leaders have substantial control over strategic resources and wield other forms of power, they do not necessarily significantly influence practices and beliefs in PE. The theoretical significance of these findings lies in their ability to shed light on how changes occur and explain how such changes impact widely accepted norms, rules, and structures. In practice, knowledge of how ideas and practices guide future decisions can be used in efforts to support those working in, working with, or striving to develop PE, including decision-makers, school leaders, and PE teachers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023
Keywords
Embedded agency, institutional change, institutionalisation, physical education, professional work
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-212511 (URN)10.1080/13573322.2023.2237057 (DOI)001032250200001 ()2-s2.0-85165267397 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2023-07-31 Created: 2023-07-31 Last updated: 2024-04-26

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