Physical education, diversity and inclusion



Place: Norges idrettshøgskole

Formal title

Physical education, diversity and inclusion - Students’ narratives of inclusion and exclusion in multi-ethnic physical education


Based on an intersectional perspective, the purpose of this doctoral thesis is to provide more knowledge about inclusion in PE by investigating the experiences of students with diverse backgrounds. The overall goal of the study is operationalized through two research questions: RQ1) What are the PE experiences of students in a multi-ethnic PE context? RQ2) What stories of inclusion and exclusion are revealed at the intersection between the researcher’s accounts, the curriculum, teachers’ practice, and students’ stories of PE in a multi-ethnic class?


Data was generated through fieldwork in two secondary school classes at a school in Oslo, the capital of Norway. The data foundation consists of field notes from observations of 56 PE lessons and semi-structured interviews with 17 students.


Based on an intersectional analysis, the current thesis provides a complex picture of students’ experiences of PE in a multi-ethnic class. Overall, the findings showed that students’ backgrounds were of great importance for experiences of inclusion. However, a lack of recognition of ethnic and cultural diversity in the subject appeared to trigger “cultural tensions” between students on one side and to reproduce a majority culture on the other, leading some students to experience marginalization and othering. In addition, the findings revealed that a narrow perspective on differences between students contributes to maintaining unequal gender relations in the PE classroom. The study concludes that PE has great potential to facilitate inclusion across ethnic and cultural differences; however, there is a vital need to create a more open dialogue about the differences that exist between students. To achieve this, I argue for the use of critical intersectional approaches to teaching PE, where inclusion operates in the tension between recognizing and supporting difference and diversity, problematizes issues of power relations and discrimination, and works actively against essentialist and stereotypical understandings of difference.

 The data is presented in the form of four articles:

  • Thorjussen, I. M. (2020). Social inclusion in multi-ethnic PE classes: Contextualised understandings of how social relations influence female students’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion. Europeian Physical Education Review.
  • Thorjussen, I. M., & Wilhelmsen, T. (2020). Ethics in Categorizing Ethnicity and Disability in Research with Children. Societies, 10(1), 2
  • Thorjussen, I.M. & Sisjord, M.K. (2019) Inclusion and exclusion in multi-ethnic Physical education: An intersectional perspective. Curriculum studies in health and physical education
  • Thorjussen, I.M. & Sisjord, M.K. (2018) Students’ physical education experiences in a multi-ethnic class, Sport, Education and Society, 23:7, 694-706

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