PE Insights Podcast Episode 1: Grace Cardiff – Meaningful PE In Action: Democratic and Reflective Practice

PE insights podcast


Embarking on a Ph.D. journey in meaningful Physical Education (PE) brings forth a myriad of challenges and discoveries. In a fantastic conversation with Grace Cardiff a primary teacher part-way through her PhD, in this episode we delve into the intricacies of the journey, focusing on Grace’s exploration of student voice, democratic pedagogies and the application of meaningful PE principles.

Reflecting on the Journey

Grace begins by offering context to the research, highlighting a transition from being a generalist primary teacher to a researcher exploring the nuances of meaningful PE. Two years of teaching and researching concurrently set the stage for an in-depth examination of Grace’s teaching practice. Grace highlights the challenge with the realisation that student voice is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and is complex when ensuring that student voice is representative of a diverse range of voices and implemented fairly and effectively to enhance the offer of all pupils.

Adapting to Diversity

Grace’s research revolves around the implementation of student voice, specifically within the framework of meaningful PE. Grace acknowledges the diversity among student groups and the need for flexibility in approach. Also, Grace highlights how what worked in one year may not seamlessly translate to the next, meaning that adaptability and a recognition of the unique needs of each class is imperative as on ongoing cycle of tailoring student voice to the needs and context of each class.

The Influence of Meaningful PE Framework

Guided by influential figures in the field of meaningful PE, Grace integrates democratic and reflective pedagogical principles into the student voice implementation. Additionally, the Lundy model of child participation underscores the importance of space, voice, audience, and influence in authentic student engagement.

The Lundy Model of Participation (Lundy, 2007).

The Role of Reflection

Grace also highlights the pivotal role of reflection in enhancing the democratic element of lessons. Grace shares a range of practical strategies to encourage democratic pedagogies, from discussing objectives and plans with students beforehand to incorporating reflective pauses during PE lessons. The aim is to empower students to contribute meaningfully to the decision-making process within their lessons and learning schemes and ultimately help to personalise their learning journey in PE.

Crafting a Meaningful Scrapbook

Grace shares further tangible tools employed in her journey, with a focus on the student reflection scrapbook. Initially envisioned as a data collection source, it gradually transformed into a dynamic, working document. The scrapbook serves not only as a reflective outlet for students but also as a resource for setting goals and fostering a continuous dialogue between teacher and students.

Promoting Student Creativity

A critical aspect also involves the gradual delegation of decision-making power to students, starting with small, closed choices and progressing towards more open-ended decisions. Grace emphasises here the importance of setting parameters within which students can exercise their creativity, fostering a sense of responsibility and engagement.

Lessons Learned and Future Plans

Grace concludes by reflecting on her ongoing Ph.D. journey, expressing the desire to return to the classroom and implement newfound insights. Despite the challenges Grace underscores the importance and transformative impact of student voice in enhancing engagement and creating a more inclusive PE environment.

Takeaways for Educators

Grace summarises her essential takeaways for fellow educators as follows:

The episode provides a valuable glimpse into the dynamic intersection of research and practice, offering insights that can inspire and guide educators on their journey towards more meaningful physical education experiences for all our children and young people.

About the Guest

Today’s guest is Grace Cardiff. Grace is a qualified primary school teacher with 7 years of teaching experience in both Ireland and the US. She loves movement and physical activity and calls herself a ‘sporty-person’.  Grace is currently pursuing a PhD at Mary Immaculate College Limerick. Her research focuses on Meaningful PE and how student voice pedagogies can enhance experiences. With two years of data collection from 10-11-year-old students, Grace is now in Year 3 of her PhD journey, aiming to share valuable insights with physical educators like you.

You can connect with Grace directly via X at @GraceC_Teaches

Listen and Connect

To listen to the full episode please follow these links to Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

If you would like to be a guest on the PE Insights Podcast please reach out by contacting us here or reach out to Nathan Walker via X at @NWalkerPE


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