Dr Shirley Gray

Senior Lecturer in Physical Education


Before becoming a lecturer in physical education, I was a secondary school teacher of physical education and then a teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh.  In general, my research attempts to explore how teachers understand and enact curriculum policy, and how they might be supported in their learning to provide their students with positive learning experiences in physical education. More specifically, I am involved in research projects that explore: gender issues in physical education, social and emotional learning in physical education, teaching for personal and social responsibility, pupil motivation and the professional learning of teachers.

Undergraduate teaching

  • Professional Practice and Enquiry 2
  • Physical Education Perspectives 4: Motor skill acquisition: Non-Linear Pedagogy   
  • Applied Sports Science 1a 1: Motor skill acquisition – An Introduction to Information Processing and Dynamical Systems Theories of Skill Acquisition
  • Physical Education Pedagogy and Curriculum 3
  • Physical Education Perspectives 3: Motor skill acquisition – Dynamical Systems, Direct Perception and Constraints

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I would be happy to supervise students interested in carrying out research in the following areas:


Gender and education

Motivation and learning

Curriculum and pedagogy

Teacher professional learning

Health and wellbeing in schools

Teaching for personal and social responsibility




Current PhD students supervised

2017 to date    Graham Condie: Understanding the lives of young people with cerebral palsy in the context of sport and leisure.

2019 to date  Stephanie Hardley: Understanding whole school approaches to promoting health and wellbeing - policy to practice.

2020 to date Ella Williams (MScRes): Understanding girls' experiences of curricular football in physical education.

Past PhD students supervised

2017    Sarah MacIsaac (Bicentennial Fellowship): ‘Healthism discourse in the physical education context’.

2015    Edward Hall (internal funding): ‘Understanding the context and practice of an elite women’s rugby coach over the duration of one season’.

2011    Shaun Phillips (Funded by a College Postgraduate Research Studentship): ‘The influence of carbohydrate supplementation on endurance capacity, sprint performance, and physiological responses to adolescent team games players to prolonged, high-intensity intermittent exercise.’

2011    Danielle Bryant (ESRC funded): 'Teacher stress, learned optimism and coping strategies'.

Research summary

Member of PCRE: www.ed.ac.uk/education/pcre

  • Physical education pedagogy
  • The physical education curriculum (Health and Wellbeing)
  • Pupil experience in physical education
  • Gender issues in physical education
  • Teacher learning in physical education
  • Motivation, self-determination and self-regulated learning

Project activity

  • A critical analysis of the processes involved in the development of the physical education curriculum within the Curriculum for Excellence (Health and Wellbeing)
  • Guided by self-determination theory, an investigation to understand pupil experience in physical education within the Health and Wellbeing curriculum
  • A longitudinal study investigating teachers' learning activities and learning as they engage with a new physical education curriculum
  • A comparative study investigating Canadian and Scottish student teachers' discourse concerning the curriculum, health and the body
  • A scoping review of the literature on students’ emotional, social and mental wellbeing in the school physical activity/PE contexts

View all 54 publications on Research Explorer