What is important? How one early childhood teacher prioritised meaningful experiences for children in physical education



young child, meaning, pedagogies, story-telling, narrative-based approaches


Attention to the meaningfulness of children’s physical education experiences can promote rich, life-enhancing engagement with movement. While there has been recent interest in prioritising meaningfulness in physical education, this is not matched by vivid descriptions or empirical evidence of how to teach for meaningfulness, particularly in early childhood settings. Adopting a single exploratory qualitative case study design, the purpose of this research was to share how one teacher (Zack) prioritised meaningfulness in one unit of physical education with children aged 3-4 years. Data sources included lesson plans (n = 6), teacher reflections (n = 8), teacher narrative (n = 1), teacher artifacts (including Tweets and photographs (n = 95)) and student interviews (n = 4). Inductive analysis (Thomas, 2006) lead to the identification of pedagogies that were used to prioritise meaningfulness, several of which are representative of Zack’s pedagogical approach. Specifically, stories provided a pedagogical frame for children to move with purpose. Zack scaffolded activities upon the stories to help children make choices and decisions about their participation and provided them with a language to reflect on those experiences. These findings exemplify what a pedagogy of meaningfulness might include in early childhood settings and provides important direction for future implementation.