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									   ‘I love the Olympics!’: developing
experiential learning in students on sport-
        based degree programmes
          Helen Pussard & Eileen Kennedy
              Roehampton University

         HEA HLSTN 6th Annual Conference
                September 2007
                   ‘I love the Olympics!’


• Students who enrol on sport-based degree programmes
  are often motivated by their prior engagement with sport,
  exercise & leisure.
• Their experiences of sport are gained from performance,
  participation, spectatorship and consumption.
• These are embodied experiences that resist simplistic
  theorisation, presenting challenges to educators
  delivering critical sociological studies of sport.
• Today’s workshop addresses some of these challenges
  and proposes some responses.
                Experiences of the Olympics


• Identify some experiences or memories of the
  Olympic Games that have significance for you.

• Select one from your list and jot down some brief
  details about it.

• In pairs, share your chosen experience or memory
  with your partner.
               Experiential learning


• As the exercise demonstrated, we have prior
  experiences and knowledges of the Olympics.
• Students also bring their prior experiences and
  knowledges to the learning environment.
• Higher Education can harness this knowledge in
  ways that enable students to achieve:
   – Reflexivity
   – Critical (self-) understanding
   – Independent thinking
               Experiential learning


• Experiential learning is the process of creating
  knowledge through the transformation of experience
  (Lai, C. –H, et al., 2007: 326).
• We argue that experiential learning (Beatty, 1999;
  Jacques, 2000) modes of learning and teaching are
  integral to Higher Education’s contribution to
  understanding, planning for and evaluating sport
  spectacles such as 2012 London Olympics.
                 Experiential learning


• Without experiential learning, we risk uncritically re-
  inscribing prevailing discourses about sport and
  leisure.
• The challenge for our subject areas is to transform
  the depth and breadth of student experience into
  critical and engaged thinking, leading to informed
  social action.
                  Case-study: HE3 module


• The Cultures of Consumer Society, 20-credits, HE3 module
• Learning Outcomes
• Students who successfully complete this module will:
   – Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the
     historiography of the consumer society.
   – Develop a conceptual understanding of consumption as an
     important arena for the construction and maintenance of
     social identities.
   – Be able to critically evaluate their own consumer
     experiences using the appropriate socio-cultural concepts
     and theories.
   – Be able to communicate their ideas effectively in oral and
     written presentations.
                  Learning & teaching methods


• This module was delivered through experience-based ‘learning
  groups’.
• Students were given activities in groups designed to draw out
  their wealth of cultural knowledge and competences:
   – Mapping out how we use gyms or spaces of sport
   – Making Christmas cards
   – Listing foods with special meanings
   – ‘Confessing’ the brands that we couldn’t live without
   – Reflecting on our different experiences of shopping
                Learning & teaching methods


• Learning group activities enabled the elicitation of
  contemporary aspects of consumption.
• Throughout the module, we sought to provide
  students with:
   – The historical context within which particular forms
     of consumption emerged.
   – Conceptual tools with which to understand past
     and present forms of consumption.
   – Theories of identity to help them make sense of
     their experiences.
                Challenges and responses


• Getting students to open up
   – Being an active participant yourself
• Shifting deeply-held perspectives on our identities
   – Providing a supportive environment while taking
     risks
• Building students’ confidence and ability in applying
  theories to unexplored terrains, including ourselves
   – Micro-level approach which makes explicit where
     and how we can use theories in our research
   – Modelling the steps of analysis using original (and
     personal) data
                Learning & teaching methods


• Jacques (2000: 77) argues that learning groups are
  engaged in two different forms of learning.
• ‘Task’ aims are concerned with:
   – Exercise of critical judgement
   – The ability to analyse statements and cases
   – Questioning underlying assumptions and values
• ‘Maintenance’ aims are concerned with:
   – The ‘running of the group if the task is going to be
     achieved’
   – ‘Emotional’ responses and ‘social patterns’ of
     behaviour
                      Experience-based
                      assignments

•   Produce a critical and independent analysis of an act of
    consumption in sport, leisure or popular culture.

•   This is assessed by an oral presentation (10 mins) and an essay (3,000
    words)

•   The presentation will:
     – Describe the act of consumption you have chosen to analyse.
     – Convey a rationale for researching the act of consumption – i.e.
       how does your analysis contribute to the existing literature on the
       consumer society?
     – Outline the theories and concepts that you have selected from the
       literature to apply to your chosen act of consumption.
                   Experience-based
                   assignments

• Produce a critical and independent analysis of an act of
  consumption in sport, leisure or popular culture.

• The essay will:
   – Historicise the act of consumption within the emergence of
     consumer society.
   – Applying the theories and concepts covered in the module,
     analyse what is being commodified in the act of
     consumption.
   – Discuss the act of consumption in relation to the construction
     and maintenance of social identities.
                     Kate’s analysis of Puma
                     football boots

‘The influence of my icons was prominent in my choice of football
   boots growing up; when Benito Carbone joined my club,
   Sheffield Wednesday, in 1996, he became a hero of mine. He
   often wore blue and white football boots (the team colours of
   Sheffield Wednesday) which meant I too, at only 11 years old,
   wanted to possess this commodity as well. McCracken (1990:
   110) reiterates this feeling, ‘The individual anticipates the
   possession of the good and, with this good, the possession of
   certain ideal circumstances that exist only in a distant location.’ I
   certainly, at age 11, believed that by possessing the same boots
   as Benito Carbone would help me towards playing like him.’
                Kate’s analysis of Puma
                football boots

‘When I was 16, coloured boots were extremely popular
  and I purchased a red pair of Puma King boots
  without even liking them, simply because I wanted to
  adhere to society’s expectations and ‘fit in’ with those
  around me: ‘If a person does not want something, the
  quickest way to instil the necessary desire is to
  create urgent and inescapable.’ (Simmonds cited in
  Tomlinson, 1991: 136). This was indeed what
  influenced my choice of football boots at a young
  age, the feeling that I ‘needed’ to have a particular
  type of boot.’
                Kate’s analysis of Puma
                football boots

‘The internet advertisement also relies on consumer’s
   cultural capital concerning Puma Boots which
   includes the recognition of the classic black and white
   colours as a signifier that they are Puma King football
   boots, as opposed to any other brand. I like the
   nostalgic aspect that Puma boots incorporate in the
   design of their boot, the classic black and white
   colouring has remained since early boots designed
   and made by Puma. It is this traditional and nostalgic
   quality that contributes to my attraction towards
   buying Puma football boots.’
                 Dave’s analysis of WingTsun


‘I chose to study this martial art above others because
    the concept of winning without the need for strength
    appealed to me. I was surprised when I originally
    started to learn that the moments were all typically
    female, or feminine in their quality. My personal
    history just prior to learning marital arts was one of
    violence at school, and a fairly rigid outlook on the
    decorum of masculine behaviour because much had
    been informed by my experiences at an all-male
    school and in the army cadets.
                Dave’s analysis of WingTsun


‘My consuming martial arts completely changed my
  outllook on your identity and allowed me the benefits
  afforded by post-modernism so lauded by
  Featherstone (1991). The fact that choice in studying
  various martial art styles is now seemingly
  boundless, and not limited by Chinese secrecy
  allowed me to choose WingTsun as my art of choice.
  In doing so, I have been able to destabilise gender
  narratives that had been installed in me by the public
  school system and the army.’
                 The social and cultural study
                 of sport

• ‘Learning…is a dynamic, two-way relationship
  between people and the social learning systems in
  which they participate. It combines personal
  transformation with the evolution of social structures.’
  (Wenger, 2000: 227)
• In other modules, we have developed similar
  strategies:
   – Unravelling myths associated with sport
   – Deconstructing everyday images of sport
   – Analysing auto-biographies of sport celebrities
   – Reflexive diaries theorising own experiences
               Experiences of the Olympics


• Revisit your chosen experience or memory of the
  Olympics.
• Try to remember how you felt.
• Write down any words that describe the range and
  strength of feelings you had.
• Share these with the partner you worked with
  previously.
London 2012 Bid Experience
                Affective power of the sport
                spectacle

• Affect identifies the strength of the investment which
  anchors people in particular experiences, practices,
  identities, meanings and pleasures, …
• The affective plane is organized according to maps
  which direct people’s investment in and into the
  world… ‘mattering maps’ are like investment
  portfolios
• Affect is the missing term in an adequate
  understanding of ideology. (Grossberg, 1992: 81-2)
               Affective power of the sport
               spectacle

• The potential cynicism of the postmodern sensibility
  is kept in abeyance by the passion of the athletic
  performance.
• Despite the parodic, self-referential, meretricious
  extravaganza that surrounds the staging of the
  Olympics, the spectacle mobilises nationalistic
  sentiment through the affective investments in sport
  contests.
• Sport spectacles like the London 2012 Olympic Bid
  are ‘ideological places - affective magnets - which
  organise people’s mattering maps’ (Grossberg, 1992:
  281-282).
                Concluding comments


• In our modules, we try to use concepts such as
  affect, mattering maps and affective magnets to
  make sense of students’ complex, often
  contradictory, experience of sport and sport
  spectacle.
• Through this strategy, we help students to
  acknowledge the strength of their investments in
  sport whilst developing a reflexive, critical
  engagement.
• ‘I love the Olympics!’ (Sue’s critical analysis)

								
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