Troubling an embodied pedagogy in science education

Kathrin Otrel-Cass, Liv Kondrup Kristensen

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter explores the idea of using an embodied pedagogy for science teaching following the mandated introduction of physical activity across all subjects in Danish primary schools. While there is research available that explores the different ways of utilizing movement in school, very little of that which is available applies to science education. The argument is made that an embodied pedagogy recognises and validates the centrality of the body in learning, but it is about more than making students move. Utilising such an approach requires one to recognise that embodiment shapes interactions between young people, because movement and bodily expression are linked to how people feel about themselves, others and intended presentation. We find useful insights through the ontological assumptions proposed by the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who argued for the intertwined relationship between the body and mind. Based on observations that were conducted in science lessons at a Danish primary school, and from talking with the students, we examine how an embodied pedagogy in science was implemented. We explore a specific instance where a group of 14-16 year old students were asked to conduct physics experiments in which movement was an integrated part of the learning experience. Our analysis focused on how students’ bodies were situated during this science activity. The young people made decisions on whether they felt comfortable performing in front of others and this was also indicative as to how they related to each other. Applying an embodied pedagogy approach to science education means that integrating movement in science is more than adding physical activity, because embodiment is about how students perceive themselves and the world. This is particularly important in a subject like science where students have some notion of what counts as legitimate knowledge production, however, traditionally this has not included ones’ own complex and subjective embodied experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTroubling educational cultures in the Nordic countries
EditorsTouko Vaahtera, Anna-Maija Niemi, Sirpa Lappalainen, Dennis Beach
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherTufnell Press
Publication date2017
ISBN (Print) 978-1-872767-59-8, 1872767591
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-872767-64-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
SeriesEthnography and Education


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