A research-practice partnership for enhancing policy preparedness in physical education – Jenna R. Lorusso

Policy neglect is normative in physical education given the lack of preparation for policy engagement in initial teacher education, continuing professional development, and graduate programmes (Lorusso, et al., 2020; van der Mars, 2019). The consequences of policy neglect in physical education are serious. Without policy expertise, physical education stakeholders are significantly limited in their advocacy for curriculum and other policy reforms that challenge the status quo and move the field forward (O’Sullivan, 2018). Should this neglect continue, it is likely that physical education professionals will continue to report the management of constant policy change as one of the greatest challenges facing their practice (Brown, et al., 2017). Furthermore, with threats to the status and survival of school and university physical education in many countries, experts have warned that failure to engage in the public policy spaces of education, sport, and health may put the future of physical education, and its contributions to students’ wellbeing, at risk (Lorusso & Richards, 2018).

Enhancing physical education stakeholders’ preparedness (i.e., awareness, know-how, motivation, and confidence) for policy engagement is the focus of Dr. Jenna R. Lorusso’s postdoctoral fellowship research, along with her supervisors Professor Ann MacPhail (EHS Assistant Dean Research and Professor in PESS) and Professor Hal A. Lawson (Professor in Educational Policy and Leadership at the University at Albany, SUNY). To do so, this research project has engaged an interprofessional group of 10 Irish physical education stakeholders (i.e., physical education teachers, teacher educators, policymakers, professional development providers, professional association directors, etc.) in a sustained, policy-focused research-practice partnership (Cairney, 2015; Coburn & Penuel, 2016). In this partnership, participants are: (a) sharing information and stories about their physical education policy engagement; (b) working together to identify policy problems of practice that the group will work to address; (c) considering how policy theories might relate to the selected policy problems; (d) identifying practical lessons from the group’s reflection on policy theory; and (e) reflecting on how this partnership has influenced the group’s policy preparedness.

The aims of this research project are two-fold and include: (a) identifying and mobilizing the aspects of a policy-focused research-practice partnership that stimulate participants to become empowered and adept in their policy engagement; and (b) identifying and mobilizing evidence- and theory-based practical policy lessons. The intention is that the practical nature of these two sets of findings will be used to inform the development of larger-scale policy preparation initiatives in initial teacher education, continuing professional development, and graduate education within physical education, education, and other public sector arenas, as well as enhance the policy engagement of other physical educators, educators, and policy practitioners in various contexts.

This project is supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


  • Brown, R., Williams, B., Pendergast, D., Reynolds, J., Enright, E., Hay, S., Rossi, T., Usher, W., & Whatman, S. (2017). Communique: Queensland health and physical education initial teacher education summit 2017. Retrieved from: https://plhub.griffith.edu.au/u/lib/mob/20180509112445_0e59c6f3162132344/hpesummitcommuni que2017.pdf
  • Cairney, P. (2015). How can policy theory have an impact on policymaking? The role of theory-led academic–practitioner discussions. Teaching Public Administration, 33(1), 22-39.
  • Coburn, C. E., & Penuel, W. R. (2016). Research–practice partnerships in education: Outcomes, dynamics, and open questions. Educational Researcher, 45(1), 48-54.
  • Lorusso, J. R., Hargreaves, S., Morgan, A., & Lawson, H. A. (2020). The public policy challenge: Preparing and supporting teacher educators and teachers as change agents and policy entrepreneurs. In A. MacPhail & H. A. Lawson (Eds.) School physical education and teacher education: Collaborative redesign for the 21st Century (pp. 153-164). Routledge.
  • Lorusso, J. R., & Richards, K. A. R. (2018). Expert perspectives on the future of physical education in higher education. Quest, 70(1), 114-136.
  • O’Sullivan, M. (2018). PETE academics as public intellectuals and activists in a global teacher education context. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 23(5), 536-
  • van der Mars, H. (2018). Policy development in physical education… The last best chance? Quest, 70(2), 169-190.

Dr. Jenna R. Lorusso is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Limerick and University at Albany, SUNY. Her research interests are in Policy, equity, and leadership in school- and university-based physical and health education. Jenna’s postdoctoral fellowship involves investigating how physical education stakeholders’ preparedness for policy engagement may be enhanced through research-practice partnerships. This project is in collaboration with UL PESS Professor and EHS Assistant Dean Research Ann MacPhail and Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership Hal A. Lawson at the University at Albany, SUNY. Contact Jenna at jenna.lorusso@ul.ie    ORCID    Twitter: @JennaRLorusso

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