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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Finding space for body size and ethnic diversity in physical and health education Bonnell, Kaila


Eurowestern and normalized ways of thinking, understanding, and viewing health and the body have been employed by Physical and Health Education (PHE) teachers, leading ethnic minority, and fat students to feel marginalized, unseen, and if seen at all, distinct from the norm (see Azzarito, 2019; Eisenberg et al., 2006; McNinch, 2016; Pont et al., 2017; Vertinsky, 2002, 2008). Ideas of body size and ethnic diversity in PHE are especially salient in relation to Metro Vancouver, British Columbia (BC), a geographical area with one of the highest percentage of immigrants in Canada, in addition to being renowned as Canada’s capital of physical activity (NewToBC, 2018). The purpose of this study is to understand how PHE teachers, in Metro Vancouver, provide space for body size and ethnic diversity in PHE settings, in addition to understand how health reports, commissioned by BC’s Ministry of Health, and BC PHE curriculum inform each other and PHE teachers’ discourse. BC’s PHE curriculum, and five health reports commissioned by the Ministry of Health in BC and its related organizations were analyzed using a discourse analysis. Then, nine online interviews with PHE teachers working in high schools in Metro Vancouver were conducted and analyzed using a critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995). Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) and normalization (Foucault, 1977) were used as theoretical frameworks. Results found that shifts in language within health reports commissioned by BC’s Ministry of Health and BC’s PHE curriculum presented less, not more, inclusive language. Five overarching themes were identified from the interview analysis: (i) PHE teachers’ positionality and understanding of themselves in the PHE space; (ii) athleticism, fitness and strength as a framework for understanding space and bodies; (iii) regulation of the body and (re)shaping of the space; (iv) intersection of body size and ethnic diversity; (v) pedagogies to create space for body size diversity. Health reports, curriculum and teachers’ discourse were found to weave together in various ways, shaping the teaching and experience of PHE, wherein obesity discourse remains a force shaping PHE in subtle ways and more explicit references to Eurowestern ways of understanding health remain the norm.

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