The Sense of Shame: A Qualitative Study of Transgressive Situations in Physical Education from Students' Perspectives

Ina Hunger, Nicola Böhlke


Unique in school contexts, physical education (PE) explicitly focuses on the physicality of all people involved: In PE, students' bodies form the basis of lesson-related activities and the point of reference for evaluating and grading. The body is touched, observed, and openly displayed. Students judge and measure each other's bodies on the basis of normative criteria like weight, proportionality, fitness, and the like. In view of this fact, PE seems to offer a particular disruption potential to experience transgressive situations with regard to one's sense of shame. In this article, we focus on a study in PE that retrospectively examined situations in PE that students perceived as violating their sense of shame. Data collection was based on short written narratives; their analysis and assessment was carried out through sequential analysis. Results show from students' points of view, their sense of shame and intimacy is violated in multiple ways in the context of PE lessons—by exposing the (almost naked) body in swim class, by regularly being touched by teachers, and so on. The students know and are aware of the fact that the situations they experience as transgressive, in general, but are justified on didactic grounds or designated as "normal" with reference to customs and habits in sports. Following the results, we offer an outlook based on didactic grounds.



classroom research; physical education; school sports; student perspective; shame; boundary of shame; transgression of limits; abuse; short written narrations; sequence analysis


Copyright (c) 2017 Ina Hunger, Nicola Böhlke

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