Re-engaging disengaged pupils in physical education: an appreciative inquiry perspective

Shirley Gray, Jennifer Treacy, Edward Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


Many children and young people enjoy physical education (PE), yet many do not, and subsequently become disengaged from PE. Previous research that has explored pupil disengagement from PE has focused on what teachers should do to re-engage their pupils, or has encouraged dis-engaged pupils to create a curriculum that they perceive to be socially and culturally relevant. While this research is extremely important, it does not highlight enough what teachers bring to the teaching and learning process. An alternative approach to understanding (dis)engagement in PE is to start by asking both teachers and pupils: what is currently working, why is it working, and what could be in the future? This ‘appreciative inquiry’ (AI) approach is underpinned by the belief that everyone and everything has strengths that can be developed, and that those strengths should be the starting point for change. Consequently, in establishing the use of AI as an important means of understanding and potentially enhancing PE pedagogy, this research sought to understand the successful teaching strategies developed by PE teachers to re-engage disengaged pupils. Importantly, in recognising the value of understanding pupil experiences we also explored and shared the success stories of the ‘re-engaged’ pupils. Finally, in extending the research in this area, we examined the impact that teacher engagement in the AI process had on their professional learning. As the teachers engaged in the AI process, they discussed, listened to (each other and their pupils), reflected and shared their success stories. This, in turn, appears to have encouraged them to re-articulate and re-enact their practice and learning within the context of a more positive future. They designed (and in some cases, co-design with their pupils) meaningful and empowering PE programmes for their ‘disengaged’ pupils and have subsequently made a commitment to future professional learning and inquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241
Number of pages255
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number3
Early online date6 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2019


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