Representation within the Sport Management Curricula: Exploring Educators’ Decision-Making Process

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsConference Presentation



Aim and Research Question - First, the study aimed to explore sport management educators’ decision-making processes, including the representative groups used (if any), when selecting and creating case studies. Second, educators’ perceptions regarding the challenges to achieving representation in sport management case studies were investigated.

Theoretical Background and Literature Review - Globally, various curriculum activist groups and national campaigns, have critiqued the lack of diversity within the curricula and demanded intensified scrutinisation of curricula content (Jester, 2018). Limited research has investigated representation within case studies, a key pedagogical tool within management disciplines. The paucity of research has evidenced the underrepresentation of women and lack of focus upon equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues (Sharen & McGowan, 2019; Symons, 2016). Consequences include a hidden curriculum that communicates what really does (or doesn’t) matter (Blasco, 2012), creates unintended learning about work skill abilities and perpetuates the status quo in which business leaders are traditionally white males (Sharen & McGowan, 2019). Research has predominantly conducted a statistical analysis of representation within case study documents (Sharen & McGowan, 2019; Symons, 2016). Recognising educators’ role in case study selection, this study contributes towards the need for research that explores the reasons behind underrepresentation in case studies. The study was underpinned by Jester’s (2018) conceptualisation of representation in the curricula (comprising descriptive and substantive representation). Roberts’ (2015) theoretical framework provided initial factors that influence educators’ curricula decision-making process; in this instance decision-making pertained to descriptive and substantive representation. Developing Roberts’ focus upon contextual and educational influences, decision-making factors were contextualised according to three levels of analysis: micro (individual), meso (organisational) and macro (wider context beyond the organisation).

Research Design, Methodology and Data Analysis - This qualitative research utilised semi-structured, online video interviews to obtain rich insight into educators’ decision-making processes. The final purposive sample comprised 11 educators (n = 6 male and 5 female) who delivered sport management programmes at two post-1992, teaching intensive universities in the midlands of the UK. Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six phases of thematic analysis were followed to provide sound methodological and theoretical foundations for conducting thematic analysis. Regarding the first objective, Roberts’ (2015) field of curriculum decision-making was used to deductively develop codes related to factors that influenced descriptive and substantive representation decision-making. Regarding the second objective, a grounded research approach was chosen due to the lack of research related to the challenges associated with achieving curricula representation. Themes and codes were inductively developed, and challenges were contextualised using the micro, meso and macro levels of analysis.

Findings and Discussion - Though student cohort composition may influence curriculum decision-making (Roberts, 2015), homogeneity within the descriptive representative group (Jester, 2018), deterred educators from aligning case studies to the student body. Indicating the link between descriptive representation (of the student body) and substantive representation in the curricula content, interviewees stated that descriptively aligning case studies would provide insufficient focus upon substantive issues. Although interviewees supported descriptive representation of society, case study representation efforts indicated a narrow focus upon women (or women’s sports) and / or black identities. Similarly, substantive efforts were narrowly focused upon gender equality issues and racism, indicating evidence of a ‘hidden curriculum’. The findings highlighted a need for awareness raising regarding the descriptive representation of other salient identities / sporting events and substantive issues. Contrary to Roberts (2015), macro and meso policy rarely influenced decision-making. Regarding the second objective, primary challenges to achieving representation included micro (student engagement, educators’ and students’ knowledge) and meso (workload time allocation, faculty diversity, culture and training) factors.

Conclusion, Contribution, and Implication - The paper contributed a conceptual model of educator decision-making, identifying meso, micro and macro factors that may positively or negatively influence decisions regarding descriptive and substantive representation within case studies. Confirming the need for intensified scrutinisation of the curricula (Jester, 2018), sport management educators should critically reflect on their case studies to infuse descriptive and substantive representation. It is recommended that descriptive representation within sport management case studies transcends the relatively homogenous nature of the student cohort to include diverse protagonists, including those with intersectional identities. To improve substantive representation, enhanced commitment to finding or creating case studies that explore EDI issues is required by educators.

Although substantive representation within curricula content can be achieved without diverse faculty, faculty homogeneity was perceived to hinder educator awareness and understanding of substantive issues. Additionally, educators’ lived experiences often influenced the extent to which substantive representation was integrated into case studies. Recommendations for senior management include the implementation of recruitment strategies that aim to diversify faculty. Recognising that the path between descriptive and substantive representation is not always linear, senior management must also institutionalise the value of representation, foster a culture of commitment, and encourage positive, sustained change amongst all educators (including representatives of marginalised groups) responsible for curriculum content creation.
Period11 Sept 202315 Sept 2023
Event title31st European Sport Management Conference
Event typeConference
LocationBelfastShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational