Author Interview with Steven A. Stolz

The author of The Philosophy of Physical Education takes a moment to answer a few questions about his new book. 

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

It is often claimed that the discipline area of physical education is in crisis, particularly in relation to how it is practiced within educational systems. This is a controversial claim and is disputed by some as being counterproductive to changing the practices of physical education because it leads to the intensification of intellectually and academically generated knowledge about physical education. Whether this is in fact the case or not is irrelevant because if progress is to be made within a tradition, sometimes the reformulation of problems can be as important as their solution. 

Are there any key messages you’d like to highlight?

It is important to note that physical education is part of a dynamic tradition that is constantly changing, and so debate about its point and purpose is crucial if a tradition is be vital and the discipline area is to progress. The idea that debate about its point and purpose is a bad thing is misguided and ill-informed. I would also like to add that critical critique that leads to no significant change in practice is meaningless and should quite rightly be criticised as being vacuous. In my book, my intention was to create a new tradition in physical education, which I refer to as “embodied learning” (see my paper titled “Embodied Learning” in the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory (Issue 5 published in 2015) and Chapter 6 of my book). Recently Dr Malcolm Thorburn (University of Edinburgh, UK) and I have expanded on my conceptual account of embodied learning by merging it with physical culture (see advance online publication in the journal Sport, Education and Society).  

What are some current trends in the field?

One trend worth noting seems to revolve around a preoccupation with what is referred to as “models-based practice” and its implementation in practice. Put simply, a models-based practice is essentially a pedagogical model that is highly prescriptive in its framing. Although, a theoretical model, current research is exploring whether it has helped teachers of physical education change and improve the quality of their teaching. For those who are interested, they should go to Professor Kirk’s paper published in the special issue of the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory (Issue 9 published in 2013) which is titled “Reconceptualising Physical Education” that I guest coedited.

What experience led you to write this book?

Before I became an academic, I taught for ten years as a secondary school teacher in a range of curriculum areas, such as mathematics, science, religious education, sport and physical education. Combined with a life-time of both physical activity and competitive sport, I have always been fascinated about human movement experiences, embodiment, physical culture, and particularly philosophy. Some would say that this is a strange mix of interests, but they have served me well as I could see the unique amalgam of knowledge types that are just as important as other bodies of knowledge. So in a sense, I had been thinking about writing an academic book for some time that was both novel and at the same time challenged some of the traditional thinking around education. 

What are your plans for the future?

Although my research attention has been refocused to other areas of expertise, such as educational philosophy and theory. At the time of writing I have been invited to write two chapters for an edited book titled Transformative Learning and Teaching in Physical Education which is due to be published by Routledge in 2017. The editor of the book (Dr Malcolm Thorburn) and I have collaborated together on various research projects, and we have co-authored publications together, and as a result, I am glad that I can make a contribution. Whether this is the last time I write on this discipline area, I am not too sure because I have no idea what the future holds for me as an early career academic, but one thing is for sure, the discipline area has untapped potential, and so if I can contribute to “unlocking” its potential, then I would like to be involved in some capacity. 

The Book