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The same old story : the reproduction and recycling of a dominant narrative in research on physical education for girls

Kirk, David and Oliver, Kimberly L. (2014) The same old story : the reproduction and recycling of a dominant narrative in research on physical education for girls. Apunts: Educación Física y Deportes, 116 (2). pp. 7-22. ISSN 2014-0983

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Our purpose in this paper is to show how a particular narrative, what we call here ‘the same old story’, about girls and physical education is maintained and reproduced by many of the researchers who study this topic, and by sections of the media who report on some of this research. We believe we need to understand the extent of the contribution researchers of girls and physical education make to the same old story if we are to contribute to a process of bringing about change for the better for all girls. First of all, we summarise the collective knowledge from social, pedagogical and historical research on girls and physical education overviewed by Flintoff and Scraton in 2006, before going on to examine some of the research literature post-2006 that we think reproduces the same old story in a variety of ways. Next we present a case study of the treatment of the report of a large-scale study in England by the media to show not only that newspapers and other media outlets are parasitic upon research but that they also invariably simplify, sensationalise and misrepresent the findings of studies of girls and physical education. We conclude that this topic of study, like the broader field of physical education and sport pedagogy, is marred by poor citation practices and a consequent general lack of systematic building on previously published studies. Moreover, we suggest that there appear to be few programmes of research and a marked absence of a broader programme of interlocking research studies that could produce genuine developments in practice. Finally, we propose that a large part of a shared mission for this field of inquiry is that it must become more focused on how we go about improving the situation for girls in physical education, building on what we already know from activist studies and other student-centred interventions.