Physical Culture and Education | Teachers College Columbia University

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Welcome to Physical Culture and Education

Faculty and students in Physical Culture & Education are committed to the sociocultural and pedagogical study of physical education [PE], physical activity, and health to understand the complex links between the body, identity, physical culture, pedagogy, and social justice issues. Physical culture is the study of human physical movement performed in a wide range of domains such as PE, sport, health, dance, and recreation from a critical perspective.

Music by The East Village Opera Company—Overture, Le Nozze di Figaro.

Our Perspectives

Drawing from a socio-cultural and pedagogical perspective, we carry out interdisciplinary research with and for young people at physical culture sites to address current issues of inequalities and inequities. We view sports not simply as games to play or fitness and health as something people have to do; rather, we conceptualize physical activity as a means of constructing the self in society. We explore how bodily practices can be pedagogically constructed as meaningful and culturally relevant to people’s lives in their communities.

Our work examines how sociocultural, political, and economic forces have an impact on the body, school PE, physical activity, fitness, and health. In today’s context of public health, we are particularly interested in understanding how health disparities, structural inequalities, and the materiality of the socio-educational and economic resources young people have access to in the local community contexts of their daily lives inform their physicality development and health.

Our Research

We interrogate critically how young people embody issues of gender, sexuality, race, ableism, and sizeism and the intersectionality of these social categories in physical activity and health and express them in their engagement with and/or disengagement from physical culture. Adopting critical and constructivist theories, we investigate PE classes, gyms, and other contexts of health, fitness, or recreation as sites of critical inquiries. We are thus committed to re-constructing PE curricula and other contexts of physical culture as sites of pedagogical resistance, social change, and transformation.

Our research employs qualitative methodologies that position children and young people as active agents, enabling them to voice, express, and represent their experiences in meaningful, creative, and contextualized ways. We adopt research methodologies that have the potential to make inequalities and inequities visible in order to create social change. In our visual research, we use community-based arts centers, schools, and art galleries as sites of public and critical pedagogy for social change, showcasing participants’ own visual representations of the significance of physical activity in their lives. We use art exhibitions as pedagogical spaces for youth’s expression in the attempt to legitimate, recognize, and communicate the ways in which they talk, feel, and represent their embodied experiences to the public, beyond the boundaries of academia.



1056 Thorndike Hall



BBSR 4002 Visual Methods and Education 
BBSR 4001 Qualitative Research Methods in Biobehevioral Sciences
BBSR 5120 Critical Issues in Physical Culture and Education
C&T   5199 Culturally Responsive Curriculum  
CCPJ  4180 LGBT(Q) Issues 
ITSF  5008 Gender, Education, & International Development 
C&T   5563 Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Everyday Curriculum Practice  
MSTU 5002 Culture, Media, and Education   
C&T   4010 Immigration & Curriculum  
C&T   4032 Gender Difference and Curriculum 
CCPJ  4000 Disability, Exclusion, Schooling