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High-performance sport, learning and culture: new horizons for sport pedagogues?


Penney, D and McMahon, J, High-performance sport, learning and culture: new horizons for sport pedagogues?, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 21, (1) pp. 81-88. ISSN 1740-8989 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 Association for Physical Education

DOI: doi:10.1080/17408989.2015.1072511


Background: Research in sport coaching and sport pedagogy including studies published in this special issue bring to the fore the relationship between learning and culture in contexts of high-performance sport. This paper acknowledged that how learning, culture and their relationship are conceptualised is a crucial issue for researchers and professionals in high-performance sport.

Purpose and approach: This paper arises from a theoretical analysis of the research studies presented in this special issue. The analysis undertaken focused on the understanding and representation of the concepts of learning and culture and critically examined the methodological application of particular conceptualisations. The intention was to extend insight into both theoretical and methodological issues associated with understanding and researching athlete and coach learning, and high performance sport settings.

Findings and discussion: This paper identifies tendencies for separatist and reductionist thinking about learning and culture in high-performance sport settings. A relational perspective is identified as critical to extending research and professional practice that is directed towards learning and/or culture. Researchers are urged to avoid identifying either athlete or coach learning (only) with specific events or experiences, and similarly avoid positioning culture as something that sits apart from athletes’ and coaches’ participation and learning in elite sport settings. The dual notions of ‘learning practices as cultural practice’ and ‘cultural practice as pedagogical practice’ are proposed as a basis for holistic thinking about learning and culture in high performance sport settings. The extent to which such thinking is reflected in the various contributions to the special issue is considered. Attention is then directed to the methodological challenges that researchers face if they are to reflect a conceptualisation of learning as both embedded and embodied in cultural practices.

Challenging and extending the underlying vision of learning that researchers, coaches and athletes have is revealed as a critical consideration in regard to research design, data collection and ways in which participants are variously positioned, represented and ‘involved’ in research. Embodied perspectives are identified as particularly worthy of greater attention in contemporary research that seeks to extend understanding of athlete and/or coaches’ learning and lived experiences within and amidst elite sporting cultures. Recent scholarship focusing on the body and lived experience is identified as providing theoretical and methodological insights that can extend future research and practice.

Conclusions: Foregrounding a relational perspective is fundamental to extending the understanding of learning and culture in high-performance sport. Future research also needs to clearly embrace the methodological challenges presented by new conceptualisations.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:learning culture, sporting culture, embodied learning, high-performance sport, sport pedagogy
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Other education
Research Field:Other education not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Other education and training
Objective Field:Other education and training not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:McMahon, J (Associate Professor Jennifer McMahon)
ID Code:105127
Year Published:2016 (online first 2015)
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2015-12-09
Last Modified:2017-11-01

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