Re-imagining performance spaces and locations in ecological dynamics: implications for pedagogical practices in physical education

Martyn Rothwell, Øyvind Bjerke, Ben Strafford, Timothy Robinson, Craig Haslingden, Martina Navarro, Keith Davids

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many places and locations for physical education, and the associated pedagogies, limit the enrichment of the individual-environment system. Strengthening this relationship can provide children and youth with greater functionality to navigate a diverse range of environments more effectively, leading to a positive relationship with sport and physical activity across the lifespan. The purpose of this position paper is to draw attention to the role that environmental constraints play in shaping the relationship between places, locations, and pedagogical practice in physical education. More specifically, we demonstrate how the design of spaces for physical education, and movement competencies more generally, emerge under political, historical, cultural and socio-economic factors. Ecological dynamics is presented as an explanatory framework to position the concept of open spaces as a means of enriching individual-environment interactions via guided discovery and exploratory behaviour. In unpacking these key concepts, we highlight innovative approaches to the design of open spaces for physical activity and sport, exemplified by the Skills Garden and PLAYCE initiatives. To move beyond the theoretical arguments presented in this article, we encourage practitioners and applied scientists to collaborate and integrate sub-disciplines, applied ideas, and research methods to re-imagine the design of spaces for learning. To take full advantage of redesigned spaces in strengthening the individual-environment system, practitioners need to adopt a model of physical education that complements these contemporary learning spaces.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 23 May 2024


  • Spaces and Locations
  • Pedagogy
  • Historical and Socio-Cultural Constraints
  • Learning Design
  • Ecological Dynamics

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