Applying the concept of ‘PE-for-sport-literacy’: exploring pre-service teacher identities with a new way of teaching sport

John Williams, Shane Pill

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We explored how a physical education teacher education (PETE) programme at an Australian university influenced physical education pre-service teacher (PEPST) sport teaching identities. Our methodology utilised Elias’s [2012a [1970, 1978]. What is sociology? Collected works (Vol. 5). University College Dublin Press] personal pronouns as a figurational model which shows how social group (‘we’) identity relates to outsiders (‘they’) as well as individual members (‘I’) within communities. We also drew upon the concepts of figuration [Elias, N. (2012b [1939]). On the process of civilisation, collected works (Vol. 3). University College Dublin Press], habitus [Elias, N. (2010 [1987]). The society of individuals, collected works (Vol. 10). University College Dublin Press] and established and outsider theory [Elias, N., & Scotson, J. L. (2008 [1965]). The established and the outsiders. Collected works (Vol. 4). University College Dublin Press]. By examining if and how the ‘I’ pronoun was used in a written assessment task, we sought to ascertain the extent PEPSTs might apply the concept of ‘PE-for-sport-literacy’ (PE4SL) in their future careers. Just over half the participants wrote ‘I’ statements about how they would enact sport teaching in convincing and believable ways, the remaining PEPSTs provided descriptive narratives, suggesting a limited engagement with PE4SL, using writing styles more akin to academic writing, with little or no use of the ‘I’ pronoun. Our findings are important because, there have been limited studies about the process of teacher identity formation in teacher education [Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175–189] and fewer studies about the construction of PEPST identity [Liu, J., & Keating, X. D. (2022). Development of the Pre-service Physical Education Teachers’ Teacher Identity Scale. European Physical Education Review, 28(1), 186–204] and PE teacher identity [Virta, J., Hökkä, P., Eteläpelto, A., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2019). Professional identity among student teachers of physical education: The role of physicality. European Journal of Teacher Education, 42(2), 192–210]. Our findings then, add to the finite stock of knowledge concerning PEPST teacher identity development, by drawing attention to the varied ways our participants engaged with PE4SL. This study reinforces previous research that highlighted that as teacher educators, the knowledge we teach does not automatically translate into beginning teacher practices [Brown, D. (2005). An economy of gendered practices? Learning to teach physical education from the perspective of Pierre Bourdieu's embodied sociology. Sport, Education and Society, 10(1), 3–23; Fernández-Balboa, J.-M. (2009). Bio-pedagogical self-reflection in PETE: Reawakening the ethical conscience and purpose in pedagogy and research. Sport, Education and Society, 14(2), 147–163].
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalSport, Education and Society
Early online date22 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2024


  • Figurational sociology
  • sport teaching
  • education
  • personal pronouns
  • habitus


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