Dr Mike Jess

Senior Lecturer in Physical Education


Mike Jess is a Senior Lecturer and Teacher Educator in Physical Education.  

His recent work focusses on the ‘Physical Education is for Life’ (PEL) Project: a collaborative and longitudinal project that seeks to reframe school physical education as the ‘connective catalyst’ for all children and young people’s lifelong physical activity journeys.  He is also a member of the ‘Visions and Voices’ Project team who are working to develop teachers’ personal visions as a key feature of future developments in physical education.

Mike’s research interests focus on the relationship between complexity thinking, curriculum development and professional practice.  He is particularly interested in complex adaptive practice, boundary crossing, trans-discipliniarity, becoming, lesson study and self-study.

In recent years, Mike has been a member of the International Advisory Board for the Renovation of General Education Project (RGEP) in Vietnam and also a curriculum writer for the Pre-Service Teacher Reform Project in Myanmar. He was previously a member of the Physical Education Review Group and National Physical Activity Task Force in Scotland, a consultant on the BUPA/Youth Sport Trust 'Start to Move' Project and 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. 

Early in his career Mike spent 12 years as a teacher in primary and secondary schools in Scotland and Kuwait.  He has also worked as a lecturer in England and the United States.  

Mike has presented at many international conferences and has written extensively on complexity thinking and physical education. He is an honoured member of the Association for Physical Education (afPE) and currently a member of the afPE Board. 


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 and teacher education.  I especially welcome enquiries about supervision of research focussed on any aspects of physical education curriculum, pedagogy and professional learning.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Ciara Blennerhassett
  • Anli Su

Past PhD students supervised

Paul McMillan

Michele Carilo

Research summary

Mike's research interests focus on the relationship between complexity thinking, ecological perspectives and professional practice.   His current studies involve work on complex adaptive practice, boundary crossing, transdiscipliniarity, becoming, lesson study and self-study.

He is currently project leader of Visions and Voices: a longitudinal project that seeks to develop teachers’ personal visions as a key feature of future developments in physical education.

Mike is a member of the following research groups: PCRE: www.ed.ac.uk/education/pcre and SINC: The Special Interest Network in Complexity


Current research interests

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

Past research interests

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.

View all 74 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