Our sincerest thanks to Ash and the PEPRN blog for engaging with our 2017 review of literature on meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport. In the six years since the publishing of this review, we have been both delighted and humbled by the attention it has received from teacher educators and teachers alike. We are excited to see the extent to which practitioners and researchers have applied ideas from this review to their practice and taken it in new directions. We are also consciously aware that there is yet much to be learned on this topic.
Since the time of the review, we have implemented and experimented with these ideas in our own work both in teacher education and in school-based physical education, and we have supported other practitioners in doing the same. As a result, we have found that these features are often best facilitated through democratic pedagogies (e.g. using autonomy supportive strategies, providing opportunities for choice and self-direction, etc.) and reflective pedagogies (e.g. goal setting, reflection). We have also found the features outlined in the literature review (social interaction, fun, motor competence, challenge and personally relevant learning) to allow for the facilitation of a shared language, whereby teachers and students can collectively describe and discuss the meaningfulness of their experiences, for instance, in a quick check-in during a lesson or in a post-lesson reflection. More recently, we have outlined all of this, with examples from both teachers and teacher educators, in our book ‘Meaningful Physical Education: An approach for teaching and learning’.
In the original post, Ash made a comment about how the ideas in our review all ‘make sense’, and we agree that they are quite resonant with our own experiences and those of our students and pre-service teachers. Consequently, over the last few years, we have heard a lot of comments along the lines of ‘I already do all of this,’ and questions such as, ‘Isn’t this just good teaching?’ These are questions we have repeatedly asked ourselves (and our research participants). We have generally found that a common theme that comes up in responses is the idea of ‘intentionality’. While we often mean to facilitate these types of experiences, or assume that we are doing so, these ideas have helped us and others to be more intentional about prioritizing meaningful experiences in our practice.
Going forward, there are still many questions we seek answers to. For instance, we wonder if there are other features that impact the meaningfulness of students’ experiences that were not captured in the review (for example, creativity). Since the review only included articles published in English, we wonder if there might be differences in other contexts and cultures. Further, there were far fewer articles in the review on youth sport than PE. Acknowledging the differences in these contexts, we wonder how features that influence meaningfulness of participants’ experiences and pedagogies or approaches for fostering them might also differ.
We are grateful for the opportunity to share about our ongoing work in this area and for the continued dialogue on what we believe to be a very important topic.