Educating the Educators: Professional learning

Year: 2012

Author: Griffiths, Mark, Armour, Kathleen, Cushion, Christopher

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



The findings of research on traditional models of coach education (usually delivered out of context as discrete courses) echo much of the CPD research undertaken in wider professional fields, including physical education. Traditional 'courses' have been widely criticised for not meeting the needs of individuals and being divorced from the realities of practice. The aim of this paper is to report data from a study that examined coach educators who operated in situ and supporting the learning of professional youth sports coaches.


A national governing body in the UK constructed a professional development programme in which coach educators were assigned as mentors to clubs, and delivered tailored learning activities. Participants were 4 full-time professional coach educators working across 20 sports clubs over a year. Data were collected using a variety of methods,  and analysed using a constructivist version of Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2000). In examining the ways that the programme led to both positive and negative outcomes for clubs and coaches, we draw on qualitative data from coach educators, coaches and stakeholders to identify factors that led to positive outcomes.


Findings suggest that one of the key strengths of the programme was the opportunity to support coaches as learners in situ; and it became apparent that coaches valued access to practice-related knowledge that was relevant and meaningful for them. Data also illustrate the inherently political nature of sports clubs and club hierarchies, and the constraints resulting from the prevailing (anti) learning culture. This linked to issues around learner identity with the data suggesting that engaging learners (coaches and clubs) required a process of identity transformation that required careful negotiation. Indeed, despite recognition that learners belong to multiple groups, each one conferring a performed identity, little attention has been paid to the process of identity transformation (Hughes, 2010) in professional development.


In the case of the learners in this study, the prevailing culture of the sport was a powerful force in learner identity. It could be argued that coach learning is constrained and/or liberated by the reconciliation of performed identities. The implications of these findings for professional development in teaching, coaching, and other professional fields are considered.