Craftsmanship as a feature of Meaningful PE.

“The journey of developing craftsmanship can be lifelong, and therefore, the craftsmanship approach can provide a sense of meaningful engagement in sport.” Ronkainen, N. J., McDougall, M., Tikkanen, O., Feddersen, N., & Tahtinen, R. (2020)

In my last post Stephanie Beni and I asked a number of questions about Meaningful PE (MPE) and where we might go next. One question was “What might be some other critical features of interest for MPE?”. interaction, challenge, fun, motor competence, and delight. A review by Beni, Fletcher and Ní Chróinín (2017) found support for all apart from delight whilst adding personally relevant learning as an additional feature. This post speculates on whether craftsmanship is another potential feature of a meaningful experience within PE and what pedagogical decisions we might make to explore the feature in more depth. (I have also written a post that explores whether novelty might also be another feature of a meaningful experience in PE).

Craftsmanship as a potential feature of meaningful PE

Pratt and colleagues (2013) in asking can we help make work more meaningful, offer three orientations that can do that; craftsmanship (doing well), serving (doing good) and kinship (doing with). Meaningfulness through doing well, doing good and doing with are not only a means of increasing performance and productivity at work, but they are also ends in themselves. Both Mills (2002) and Sennet (2009) lament that when work and education take on only extrinsic meaning which is amplified through standardisation and formal bureaucratic organisation, we might miss out on craftsmanship as a source of meaning to be found. Mills (2002) says craftsmanship is when we have no ulterior motive in work other that the product being made with a focus on the processes of its creation. That through this focus we can learn from our work, to develop our capabilities and skills and by doing that we fuse together work and play. Through dedicating ourselves to the development of our craft it can become a mode of living. Sennet (2009) states that “Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake.”

Policies that encourage and emphasis the qualities of craftsmanship (intrinsic motivation, informal play, and the development of skills) and therefore task-oriented active learning have been found to have positive impact in education (Thorlindsson, Halldorsson, & Sigfusdottir, 2018). Not only is craftsmanship an important source of meaning in work and education but also sport. Craftsmanship has been found to be an independent predictor of meaningfulness in of sport, particularly in either individual sports or older age. Ronkainen et al’s (2020) exploratory study suggests that “the positive relationship between craftsmanship and meaningfulness in sport is significant for the social organization of sport culture practices and points toward the benefits of working to create craftsmanship cultures in sport.” If craftsmanship is a possible source of meaning in work, education and sport then it could be for PE.

A pedagogical choice which emphasises craftsmanship

The practising model (Aggerholm et al, 2018) offers an answer to how we might socially organise PE culture practices that provide a starting place for the building and exploration of craftsmanship. The practising model is a new pedagogical model in physical education proposed as a means of developing a key form of human activity – practise. Practising is considered a way of improving our capabilities through repeated efforts and enhancing this is the key learning aspiration of the model. The model does not necessarily concern movement capability as it could be used for a range of content and domains in PE. However, when movement capability is it is focus it is considered a Movement-Orientated Practising Model.

In the table below is an overview of a movement-orientated practising model that could be used within PE:

Main IdeaTo develop the individual’s capability to practice
Critical ElementsAcknowledging subjectivity and providing meaningful challenges – differentiation is a critical element, with the students having choice about the type and level of challenge. Students to make decisions, but teacher to challenge, question and support students’ justification for the decisions they are making.
Focusing on content and the aims of practising – the ‘content’ is an embodied knowledge of moving through participating in different activities that enhance that way of knowing.
Specifying and negotiating standards of excellence – process-orientated / formative assessment that supports the students process of practising rather that a summative assessment of the product of their learning.
Providing adequate time for practising – a long period of time is need to allow for repetition and lead to personal change (which the current multi-activity approach of PE does not facilitate). 
Learning Aspirations – For students to develop better, more holistic understandings of themselves as ‘movers’ where this knowledge is itself embodied.
– To expand student’s potential for becoming, which will be reflected in the ways one moves and movement capability.
– Learning outcomes for students are subjective and self-referenced since improvements in moving can only be understood in relation to student’s previous capability.
– A focus on students ‘knowing how’ rather than ‘knowing that’.
Pedagogy – Students should have opportunities to make decisions relating to, for instance, the kinds of transformations in movement capability they seek to experience, the ways they will attempt to bring about such trans- formations, and how they will determine whether they have been successful.
– Co-construction of goals and success criteria between student and teacher.
– Teacher should pose questions, provide constructive feedback, and suggest opportunities for exploring further embodied actions. While students will make decisions, these decisions should be informed and this is where teachers have a central role to play.
Oscillation designates a move back and forth between two (or several) ways of practising. This is considered intelligent practice. Different examples of ways of practicing:
> Playful experimentation
> Systematic practising – investigation of one chosen path
> Individual exploration
> Group exploration
> Active observation of others
> Personal reflection
– The way the teacher acts, listens, and interacts with the students during their practising is very important. They can provide them different opportunities for doings, help them. identify different ways of doing and variations of doing, make time for reflection and observation or simply ask to dedicate a chunk of time to practising.
Adapted from Aggerholm et al, 2018; Barker et al, 2018; Lindgren and Barker, 2019; Nyberg, Barker and Larsson, 2021

Capturing or holding interest?

All of us an have ongoing relationship with our body and with different forms of movement we participate in. Those relationships are dynamic and change throughout our life as they are based on our previous experiences of movement, our current capabilities and future goals and plans. I see PE as being a key vehicle for enhancing and enriching children’s relationships with their own bodies and movement cultures with MPE providing us a sound framework to make professional judgements and decision on how best to support that.

The features act as a framework; to guide our language, reflections and joint decision making (Fletcher, et al, 2021). They are a starting place, not an end. Depending on where an individual or class is with their relationship with their body, PE and the form of movement being explored different features we might want to prioritise some more than others. Chen (1996) draws upon the work of other scholars regarding situational interest, which is the individual’s subjective perception of an activity’s appealing characteristics. Two types of interest were identified: capturing interest and holding interest. “Catching interest is the student’s perception of an activity’s appealing characteristics that attract the student to take part in the activity at a given time. Holding interest is the perception of characteristics that have long-lasting retaining effects and maintain the student’s involvement in the activity even after the catching interest has diminished.” These might act useful guides when making judgements about which features to prioritise.

Take for example an experienced group of Year 10s who have all chosen to continue their learning in rugby as one of their choices within the curriculum. Many of the group have had excellent experiences of sport and physical activity and are very interested in PE as a subject and what it offers, but especially rugby as they play competitively outside of school. In this scenario we do not necessarily need to capture their interest as it is already there (but we should be mindful of it). Rather we want to continue to hold their interest and therefore we could prioritise craftsmanship as a feature of meaningful PE through the use of the practising model as a pedagogical approach. Still being mindful that the other features are present and we may need to respond and adapt our teaching to what emerges over the course of the unit.


Aggerholm, K., Standal, O., Barker D. M., & Larsson H. (2018) On practising in physical education: outline for a pedagogical model, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 23:2, 197-208, DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2017.1372408

Barker, D. M., Aggerholm, K., Standal, O., & Larsson, H. (2018). Developing the practising model in physical education: an expository outline focusing on movement capability. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy23(2), 209-221.

Beni, S., Fletcher, T., & Ní Chróinín, D. (2017). Meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport: A review of the literature. Quest69, 291–312.

Chen, A. (1996). Student interest in activities in a secondary physical education curriculum: An analysis of student subjectivity. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport67(4), 424-432

Fletcher, T., Chróinín, D. N., Gleddie, D., & Beni, S. (Eds.). (2021). Meaningful Physical Education: An Approach for Teaching and Learning. Routledge.

Kretchmar, R. S. (2006). Ten more reasons for quality physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance77(9), 6–9.

Lindgren, R., & Barker, D. (2019). Implementing the Movement-Oriented Practising Model (MPM) in physical education: empirical findings focusing on student learning. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy24(5), 534-547.

Nyberg, G., Barker, D., & Larsson, H. (2021). Learning in the educational landscapes of juggling, unicycling, and dancing. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy26(3), 279-292.

Pratt, M. G., Pradies, C., & Lepisto, D. (2013). Doing well, doing good, and doing with: Organizational practices for effectively cultivating meaningful work. In B. Dik, Z. Byrne & M. Steger (Eds.), Purpose and meaning in the workplace. Washington, DC: APA Books (forthcoming).

Ronkainen, N. J., McDougall, M., Tikkanen, O., Feddersen, N., & Tahtinen, R. (2020). Beyond health and happiness: an exploratory study into the relationship between craftsmanship and meaningfulness of sport. Sociology of Sport Journal1(aop), 1-10.

Thorlindsson, T., Halldorsson, V., & Sigfusdottir, I. D. (2018). The sociological theory of craftsmanship: An empirical test in sport and education. Sociological Research Online23(1), 114-135.

Mills, C. W. (2002). White collar: The American middle classes. Oxford University Press on Demand.

One thought on “Craftsmanship as a feature of Meaningful PE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.