Toward an understanding of the democratic reconceptualization of physical education teacher education in post-military Brazil

Gylton Da Matta, K. Andrew R. Richards, Michael A. Hemphill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Teacher education, including physical education teacher education (PETE), around the world remains highly autocratic and content focused [Apple, M. W. 2000. Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age. New York: Routledge]. Scholars in physical education [O'Sullivan, M., D. Siedentop, and L. F. Locke. 1992. “Toward Collegiality: Competing Viewpoints among Teacher Educators.” Quest 44 (2): 266–280] as well as in and education more broadly [McAllister, G., and J. J. Irvine. 2000. “Cross Cultural Competency and Multicultural Teacher Education.” Review of Educational Research 70 (1): 3–24] have noted the limited opportunities for the discussion of democratic practices, critical pedagogy, and citizenship education. However, since the fall of the military dictatorship, Brazil has had the opportunity to reconstruct teacher education with a focus on democracy. Many of these changes have been influenced by the philosophy of Paulo Freire [1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum; 1985. The Politics of Education. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey; 1998a. Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield; 1998b. Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare to Teach. Boulder, CO: Westview] whose conceptualization of democracy embraces an interactional perspective. Through the eyes of Gylton, a PETE student, this study depicts new possibilities for democratization in PETE.

Participants: Gylton, the first author of the article, was the primary participant and Maria served as an informant. The setting of the study was Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), a large university in Brazil where Gylton was a student and Maria was a faculty member.

Method: A qualitative design structured around the tenants of existential phenomenology was adopted. Gylton and Maria were participated in two semi-structured interviews [Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage] and follow-up telephone interviews and email correspondence.

Findings: The data analysis revealed that Gylton's experiences during childhood had a profound impact on his initial appraisals of the purpose of democratic practices in PETE. During his time at UFMG, Gylton experienced a shift in his consciousness and came to realize the importance of democratic practices in PETE. Gylton engaged in transformative action at the micro- and macro-levels through his exposure to democratic practices. Interactions with Maria led Gylton to resist the authoritarian system of education and reconceptualize the role of physical education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-345
Number of pages17
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • PETE
  • citizenship education
  • democratic education
  • international schooling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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