Literacy practices of student athletes: The ethics of repetition, surveillance and breakdown
Literacy Practices of Student-Athletes: The Ethics of Repetition, Surveillance and Breakdown examines how a group of male basketball players as a small Division II university in the southeast United States used and were affected by literacy in their academic, athletic and social lives. The driving question that guided data collection was How do the physical learning and material conditions of high level basketball players at Richardson University influence their literacy practices?
The impetus for this question was a desire to understand the relationship between the literate activity and moving bodies of these players. In school settings academic training is often conducted in ways that isolate the body from the mind. This ethnography sought to uncover if or how a bifurcation of mind/body occurred amid the training practices of these subjects. To accomplish this task, the study was designed to look at what bodies were doing during “literacy events.” “Literacy events,” which is borrowed from Barton and Hamilton, functioned as the core unit of analysis of the database.
The method for pursuing the primary research question was ethnography. For one academic year I observed, interviewed, took fieldnotes, collected artifacts and supervised photographic literacy logs. Observations were conducted across the campus of Richardson University in three domains of the players’ lives – academic, athletic and social domains. Interviews were conducted with individual players and were based off of fieldnotes, observations and the players’ photo literacy logs that the players made as a way of documenting samples of their literacy practices.
There were four core findings that this study of these student-athletes allows me to state with certainty: (1) these student-athletes’ training methods influenced their literacy, (2) these student-athletes have highly sophisticated literacy that reflects their highly sophisticated cognition, and (3) these student-athletes liked their training regimens. The fourth finding can be split into thirds based on the three themes organizing the data of the study – Repetition, Surveillance and Breakdown. And, each of these attests to the highly physical nature of these student-athletes’ academic and athletic training; they also indicate the extent to which reading-writing was infused in this training.
Repetition was essential to habituating motor-movements as the foundation for being able to move beyond the basic physicality of a literacy event to more critical, higher order engagement. Repetition is not a mindless, rote activity. Repetition is thinking. Surveillance was an effective educational technology for instilling positive literacy habits through a system of control and observation. Breakdown was another educational technology that demonstrated a powerful connection between body and mind, similar to repetition. These three concepts and the conversations that support them illustrate that literacy is not simply a cognitive act; it is not just a way of thinking, but a socially embedded way of acting.
0523: Physical education
0535: Reading instruction
0745: Higher education