How do young people learn from each other in a skate park?

by Martin Johnson, 18 May 2017
Tim Oates CBE and Martin Johnson took to one of the the largest skate parks in Europe to understand how young people learn from each other in this unique outdoor context. 

This project was initiated when the authors happened on a discussion about how there appeared to be relatively little research into how skate park users develop their skills. Moreover, the authors’ interest was piqued by the observation that there was a particular lack of research that related to freestyle scooter-riders. This sport was introduced into the UK in the early-2000s, and soon developed a broad international participation base. One particular characteristic that sets freestyle scooter-riders apart from other skate park-based freestyle sports (e.g. skateboarding, BMX bike riding, in-line skating) is the relatively young age-range of the participants (Jeavons, 2013). 

Studying learning in a skate park environment is an area of interest because it is a domain where young people’s personal skill development occurs with both a high degree of autonomy and a relative lack of adult intervention. As a result, skate park learning is an interesting contrast with more formal, school-based learning environments. 

For our study we interviewed a range of freestyle scooter-riders at the largest indoor skate park in Europe. This allowed us to consider the potential of what young learners are capable of when participating in an environment that differs from school-based learning environments, as well as how features of the environment can afford learning. 

In broad terms, two elements have been the focus of earlier skate park research, namely the pro-social and the learning benefits of participation in freestyle sports activity (e.g. Bradley, 2010; Wood, Carter, & Martin, 2014). Our observations build on these elements, and we suggest that the skate park is a complex, rule governed and self-created culture, where performance and learning go hand in hand. We also note that the young people in our study demonstrate the characteristics of highly engaged learners, have a high degree of autonomy in directing their own learning, and that this is contingent on them being able to read the opportunities that are present within their environment. 

Here's more information about the studies mentioned in this blog, and which informed our work in this area: 

Bradley, G. L. (2010). Skate Parks as a Context for Adolescent Development. Journal of Adolescent Research, 25(2), 288–323. 

Jeavons, S. 2013. “Action Sports – Serious Fun!” Playground News 36: 1-3. 

Wood, L., Carter, M., & Martin, K. (2014). Dispelling Stereotypes… Skate Parks as a Setting for Pro-Social Behavior among Young People. Current Urban Studies, 2, 62–73.

Martin Johnson
Research Officer, Cambridge Assessment

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