Dr Mike Jess

Senior Lecturer & Director, Developmental Physical Education Group (DPEG)


I am a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences.  Since 2001, I have been Director of the Developmental Physical Education Group (DPEG): a group of teacher educators, teachers and researchers whose focus is innovation in primary physical education curriculum, pedagogy, professional learning and policy.  My personal interests focus on the relationship between complexity thinking, ecological perspectives and practice and, more recently, how self-study and practitioner inquiry can support long term professional learning.   I was previously joint director of the Scottish Primary Physical Education Project: a £6 million project set up to help over 1,000 primary teachers across Scotland develop a specialism in physical education.  I have presented at many international conferences and have written extensively on children’s physical education. I have recently been invited to present in various countries including Canada, Japan, Singapore, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Spain.  I am also an honoured member of the Association for Physical Education. 


Ph.D.                                           University of Edinburgh                                                                    2011

M.Ed (with distinction)        University of Glasgow                                                                        1991

B.Ed.                                            University of Glasgow                                                                        1978


Undergraduate teaching

Course Organiser

  • Physical Education Curriculunm & Pedagagogy 4
  • Primary Physical Education 4 (Elective)
  • Educational Studies 1A

Postgraduate teaching

Programme Director

  • Postgraduate Certificate in 3-14 Physical Education

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I offer supervision in the areas of complexity thinking, physical education and teacher education.  I especially welcome enquiries about supervision of research focussed on any aspects of primary physical education curriculum, pedagogy and professional learning.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Patrick Boxall- 'Creativity and Interdisciplinary Learning within the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence'.
  • Michele Carilo

Past PhD students supervised

  • Paul MacMillan

Research summary

The Developmental Physical Eduaction Group (DPEG)

The DPEG is a group of physical education and primary teachers who have transitioned into the role of teacher educators.  The group’s goal is to design an innovative and integrated theory/practice approach to curriculum, pedagogy and professional learning within primary physical education and beyond (Jess, Keay & Carse, 2014).  The group initially came together in 2001 following a successful grant application to the Scottish sport agency, sportscotland. The remit for this professionally-oriented project was to develop a movement approach for children aged between 5-7 years: “Basic Moves” (Jess, 2004). Focussing on these early childhood years was considered an important starting point because this age phase represented the key foundation period for children’s physical education.  Originally consisting of one lecturer, a seconded primary physical education teacher and a part time research assistant, the group expanded from 2006 onwards when a substantial grant was secured from the Scottish Executive  to develop a postgraduate physical education programme for primary teachers.  By 2011, the group consisted of two lecturers , a postdoctoral researcher , three full-time PhD students , three teaching associates and an administrator.  Since then, while most of the group remain at the University of Edinburgh, others have moved to different lecturing, teaching and management posts across Scotland, England and the USA.  Consequently, the group’s development efforts are now more varied as members continue to work together whilst also collaborating with colleagues across the world.



Current research interests

Complexity Thinking Curriculum & Pedagogy Professional learning Policy and innovation Self study & practitioner enquiry Physical education, particularly primary

Project activity

The Developmental Physical Education Group (DPEG) Collaborative Self-Study

Having been established in 2001, this project investigates how members of the DPEG at the University of Edinburgh have grappled to engage with complexity thinking as it influences their thinking and practice as teacher educators. The collaborative self-study started in 2012 and has involved an on-going data collection process of focus group and individual interviews.  


The Primary Physical Education Practitioner Inquiry Project

This project extends the longitudinal professional learning work of the Developmental Physical Education Group (DPEG). The project focuses on a collaborative and co-constructed practitioner inquiry process involving seven members of the DPEG and nine teachers who have previously completed the Postgraduate Certificate in 3-14 Physical Education. 

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