Dr Mike Jess

Senior Lecturer in Physical Education


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 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.    Since 2017 I have been a member of the International Advisery Board for the World Bank-funded Renovation of General Education Project (RGEP) in Vietnam and am currently working  on the UNESCO-funded Pre-Service Teacher Reform Project in Myanmar..   I was previously a member of the Physical Education Review Group and National Physical Activity Task Force in Scotland and a consultant on the BUPA/Youth Sport Trust 'Start to Move' Project.  I was also 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 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

Postgraduate teaching

Programme Director

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


Past PhD students supervised

  • Paul MacMillan
  • Michele Carilo

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. 

View all 64 publications on Research Explorer

Conference details

Presentations at the following national and international conferences from 2013 to the present:

Scottish Educational Research Conference, November 2018, Glasgow, UK

AIESEP World Congress, July 2018, Edinburgh, UK

The 12th Castle Self-Study for Teacher Educators' Conference, July 2018, Herstmonceaux Castle, UK

World Association Lesson Study Conference,  December 2017, Nagoya, Japan

Scottish Educational Research Conference, November 2017, Ayr, UK

3rd European Conference on Curriculum Studies, June 2017, Stirling, UK

Australian Association of Research in Education Conference, December 2016,  Melbourne, Australia 

Scottish Educational Research Conference, November 2016, Stirling, UK

Teaching Games for Understanding International Conference, July 2018, Cologne, Germany

The 11th Castle Self-Study for Teacher Educators' Conference, July 2016, Herstmonceaux Castle, UK

North American Society for the Psychology  of Sport and Physical Activity , June 2016,  Montreal, Canada

AIESEP International Conference, June 2016, Wyoming, USA

International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement Conference, January 2016, Glasgow, UK

AIESEP International Conference, June 2015, Madrid, Spain

AIESEP World Congress, February, 2014, Auckland , New Zealand

International Professional Development Association Conference, November, 2013, Birmingham, UK

PEPAYS Conference, June 2013, Dublin, Ireland


Invited speaker


Physical Education Curriculum & Pedagogy, Chinese Visiting Headteachers, Edinburgh, UK, 19 October 2016 

Complexity Thinking, Learning & Education, Brock University, Canada, 12 June 2016

The Complex Learning Journey in Primary Physical Education, University of Victoria, Canada,  6 June, 2016

Complexity and Physicval Education, University of Vic, Spain, 10  May 2015

Primary Physical Education : It’s Complex, County Durham PE Conference, 30 January, 2015

The Role and Purposes Of Outdoor Education in Schooling:  A Developmentally-Appropriate and “Complex” Approach To Physical Activity,  Nationa Institue of Education, Singapore, 3 Febraury, 2014

Continuing Professional Development in Primary Physical Education:  A Scottish Story, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Pedagogy of Physical Education, Tokyo on Sunday 23 June, 2013

Complexity Thinking, Supporting Curriculum and Pedagogy Developments in Physical Education   in Scotland, Paper presented at  Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan, Wednesday 26 June, 2013

Continuing Professional Development in Primary Physical Education:  A Scottish Story Paper presented at Yasuda Women’s University, Hiroshima, Japan, Sunday 30 June, 2013



AIESEP world congress 2018: Member of Steering Group