Pedagogies of embodiment in physical education : a literature review

Aartun, Iselin and Walseth, Kristin and Standal, Ǿyvind Fǿrland and Kirk, David (2022) Pedagogies of embodiment in physical education : a literature review. Sport, Education and Society, 27 (1). pp. 1-13. ISSN 1357-3322 (

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Physical education puts the body center stage. Embodiment has emerged as a concept that broadens the focus on the body beyond the dualistic natural scientific point of view. Research into embodied learning and embodiment has had various focuses, including the sociological aspects of embodiment and the embodied experiences of students. This article is a literature review of peer-reviewed empirical studies aiming to explore empirical research on pedagogies of embodiment in physical education. We ask what characterizes the empirical research literature on pedagogies of embodiment in physical education, and what implications for teaching and learning we can find in this literature. Forty-two studies met the criteria and were included in the review. Based on a thematic analysis of the studies, two main themes emerged. The first theme, ‘enabling critical reflection,’ highlights that physical education can contribute to the development of critical thinking skills among pupils and provide them with safe spaces to discuss ‘taken for granted’ understandings of gender, health, and body ideals within physical education. The second main theme, ‘Exploring (new) movements,’ shows how pupils’ exploration of (new) movements can contribute to the development of body awareness and meaningful experiences. Physical education taught after principles of pedagogies of embodiment involves pupil-centered approaches and inductive approaches to teaching. These approaches give pupils the opportunity to be involved in choosing activities and creating content. Pedagogies of embodiment place focus on the importance of reflection before, during, and after activities in physical education, and expand the repertory of activities that physical education may include. In this way, pedagogies of embodiment may facilitate embodied learning, empowerment, and positive experiences of being in movement. Future research should investigate further the possibilities pedagogies of embodiment gives for teachers and learners, and how the potential to challenge traditional pedagogy can be developed.