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Touch as problematic practice: PE teachers in the context of risk society

Fletcher, Simon (2014) Touch as problematic practice: PE teachers in the context of risk society. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Physical contact is an inevitable aspect of physical education, yet the discomfort which this engenders in a risk averse climate makes tactile interaction between adult and child distinctly problematic. This thesis will analyse the contemporary challenges and practical tensions that surround the act of touch between physical education (PE) teachers and their pupils, attempting to understand the influence of a culture of accusation on professional identity. Utilising semi-structured interviewing with a range of PE staff, the findings have been analytically reinterpreted to form a fictional narrative, representing empirical discussion in a way that cultivates an evocative interrogation of adult/child discomfort. The use of two differing methodological approaches deliberately exploits parallels which may not be immediately apparent. The combination of ‘conventional’ empirical method with ‘alternative’ techniques allows us to redefine the traditional alongside a procedurally sound investigation, taking advantage of the interplay between what is both said and unsaid. Benefitting from the theory of Michel Foucault, Ulrich Beck, Zygmunt Bauman and Anthony Giddens, the project engenders a collaborative conceptual outlook alongside a formative rationalisation of the contemporary educational landscape. Using this work has enabled an analysis of disciplined conditioning amongst PE teachers, the risk practice and fear which has contemporarily emerged, and the role of reflexivity within this. Given that current trends have prioritised suspicion, thereby undermining notions of practical freedom, it is important to explore the ways in which staff have alternatively reacted to this, since ‘traditional’ modes of interaction are gradually eradicated. Through the combination of appropriate social theory with an expressive methodological approach, it has become possible to attend to the current climate with an exploitation of discursive social formation. The study has ultimately recognised the potential for a disruption of fear based discourse thorough an alternative treatment of marginalisation, in ways both productively suggestive and previously underexplored.

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