Pedagogy, physical education and sport coaching

Building on an established history of educational research in the core fields of physical education and sport coaching, our work shapes educational policy, practice and professional development.

With specific expertise in critical pedagogy and research-informed practice and development, we push the boundaries of understanding in relation to creating more meaningful, equitable, inclusive and impactful educational experiences.

Staff across the School are actively engaged in innovative, collaborative research that enhances both theoretical understanding and practice across a diverse range of educational contexts (formal and informal, sport club, school and community sites etc.) and populations (grass roots to elite, early years – adulthood). A core aim of this work is to support external stakeholder decision making for the enhancement of practice and learner experience.

Our academic staff are happy to discuss research collaboration, as well as research studentships and self-funded PhDs. To find out more about academics working in this research area, please click on the 'People' tab below.


Our research spans national and international contexts in the interconnected fields of sport, education and health.

We take a critical stance about the nature and structure of coach education, physical education teacher education and the intersections of policy, professional development and pedagogical practice. We also engage in contemporary debate about the place and position of health within education practice and how we might seek to enhance learners’ development through effective pedagogical encounters.

Current research specialisms include:

  • Promotion of health and physical activity in young people
  • Physical education and school environment
  • Models-based practice, teacher professional development and learning
  • The use of technology and social media in teacher development and student learning
  • The impact of sports coaches and coaching practices on athlete learning and development
  • Coach education and professional development
  • Young people’s experiences of, attitudes towards and participation in physical education, physical activity and youth sport.

Real-world impact

Here are some examples of where our research has had an impact:

  • Supporting future sporting stars – Loughborough University and the Laurus Trust are joining forces as part of a new initiative that aims to support the sporting stars of the future.
  • Increasing female participation in football in schools – Our collaborative project with the FA will engage teachers to give young women and girls better access to the sport.
  • Impact of social media memes on children – Loughborough academics have presented a report to MPs to warn that social media memes are encouraging obesity, apathy and lethargy in children.
  • Helping to ensure children are physically ready to start school – The Early Movers website provides practical tips to help early year practitioners and parents feel confident in delivering physical development opportunities to children.
  • Calling for better sports access for children in care – Our researchers have highlighted the lack of opportunities and potential benefits of an increase in sporting opportunities for children in care to the UK government.
  • Supporting youth football in Saudi Arabia – A $115,000 Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award is helping our academics to support the learning of coaches working with children (aged 10-12 years) in elite-developmental contexts in Saudi Arabia.


If you would like to collaborate with our researchers, engage in consultancy or discuss potential PhD projects, please contact them using the information on their staff profile.

Our research staff and their areas of research interest are listed below:

  • Karl Brennan – Occupational socialisation and secondary physical education teacher education.
  • Professor Lorraine Cale – Health-related policy and practice and the promotion of healthy, active lifestyles within and beyond the physical education curriculum.
  • Dr Ash Casey – Models-based Practice in Physical Education, Teacher Education and Technology-enhanced Pedagogy.
  • Dr Janine Coates – Examining factors influencing marginalised young people’s engagement in physical activity and sport; and the health and wellbeing benefits outdoor learning (e.g. Forest School), with a focus on inclusion and equality.
  • Dr Ed Cope – Coaching behaviour, coach learning, and educational learning design.
  • Professor Chris Cushion – Understanding the coaching process, coach education, learning and professional development, coach behaviour and learning environments, and talent identification and performance analysis.
  • Estelle Damant – An exploration of different classroom pedagogies and the ways in which these may, or may not, influence pupil’s conceptualisation of health and ability.
  • Professor Chris Harwood – Psychological factors in youth sport, the roles of coaches, parents and organisations, and implications for practitioners.
  • Dr Oliver Hooper – Marginalised young people’s experiences within physical education and youth sport contexts.
  • Dr Rachel Sandford – Young people’s development in and through sport, physical activity and physical education.
  • Dr Julie Stirrup – Issues relating to equity and identity, embodiment, and education.
  • Jack Walton – Analysing coaching behaviours.
  • Dr Darren Watts – Qualitative research methods, coach education, biography, coach learning, and professional development, and professional educators.

Current PhD projects

Our doctoral researchers (PhDs) include:

  • Aziz Ahraz – Longitudinal Technology-Based CPD for Physical Education Teachers.
  • Karl Brennan – Occupational socialisation.
  • Samuel Faulkner – Adopting a models-based practice approach to teaching Physical Education.
  • Ce Guo – The new migratory tendency: A Study on Influential Factors of European Football Coaches¿ Decision Moving to China.
  • Naomi Harte – Achieving positive outcomes from fitness testing in Physical Education.
  • Raymond Lau – Developing the coach developer: Leading pedagogical practice in swimming environments.
  • Yanlin Li – The Chinese women’s volleyball ‘Legend’ and its representation of the nation: Similar victories but different discourses in the 1980s and 2010s.
  • Hongyun (Ellen) Li – An ethnographic study of how PE teachers obtain teaching resources through social media to improve teaching practice.
  • James Milligan – What place for PE? The meaning of Physical Education within school children's lives.
  • Peter Moore – STEM ACTIVE: exploring the impact of embodied learning in STEM on pupil health and wellbeing in the primary context.
  • Zac Parris – Teachers' and students' engagement with diverse health knowledge.
  • David Percival – Is physical education dead? A study into the relevance of physical education in contemporary education across the city of Kingston Upon Hull.
  • Eric Ramsay – A reflective analysis of the influence of `dilemmas of practice' on elite academy football coaches.
  • James Roper – Investigate the preparation, practice and impact of those who support the development of Coaches in high-performance sport in the UK.
  • Jack Walton – What works, for whom and why? Developing the Coach Developer.
  • Zhenlong (Leon) Wang – How to localize TGfU in football and apply it to Chinese primary school physical education.
  • Natasha Wilson – Beyond the school gates: Digital public pedagogies and their role in the physical activity for health education of young people.
  • Jike Yang – The role of healthy lifestyle technologies in young adults’ physical activity participation and health knowledge.

To find out more about PhD opportunities in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, visit our Postgraduate research webpages.

Supporting future sporting stars

Loughborough University and the Laurus Trust are joining forces as part of a new initiative that aims to support the sporting stars of the future.


Find out more