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
  • Health and Wellbeing 1 and 2

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

2022 to date: Vince Coleman - Developing trauma-aware practice in PE.

2020 to date: Chenqi Wang  - A critical analysis of physical activity, body image, social media and females in China.

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

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


Past PhD students supervised

2021    Ella Williams (MScRes): Understanding girls' experiences of curricular football in physical education.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
  • Embodied learning in physical education.

Project activity

Current research projects include:

  • A collaborative project, working with colleagues from across the UK, exploring the PE curricula in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • A Europa UNA funded project to explore and develop critical digital health pedagogies in physical education.
  • A series of projects to understand how pre- and in-service teachers understand health and wellbeing, and the ways in which this informs their practice. 
  • A project with colleagues from Monash University to explore embodiment and embodied learning in physical education. 
  • Working with colleagues from Leeds Beckett University and Loughborough University, a project working with pre-service PE teachers to explore their awareness and understanding of trauma, how this manifests in physical education, and pedagogical principles that aim to support teacher and pupil wellbeing and learning.