Curriculum interpretation and policy enactment in health and physical education: Researching teacher educators as policy actors

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Sport, Education and Society


Taylor & Francis Group


School of Education




This research was made possible as the result of a twelve-month Moansh Education Academy (MEA) Better Teaching Better Learning (BTBL) small grant awarded in 2015.


Lambert, K., & Penney, D. (2020). Curriculum interpretation and policy enactment in health and physical education: Researching teacher educators as policy actors. Sport, Education and Society. 25(4) 378 - 394. Available here


Past research in Health and Physical Education has repeatedly highlighted that curriculum development is an ongoing, complex and contested process, and that the realisation of progressive intentions embedded in official curriculum texts is far from assured. Drawing on concepts from education policy sociology this paper positions teacher educators as key policy actors in the interpretation and enactment of new official curriculum texts. More specifically, it reports research that has explored four teacher educators’ engagement with a specific feature of the new Australian Curriculum in Health and Physical Education (AC HPE); five interrelated propositions or ‘key ideas’ that underpinned the new curriculum and openly sought to provide direction for progressive pedagogy in Health and Physical Education. The paper provides conceptual and empirical insight into teacher educators consciously positioning themselves as policy actors, motivated to play a role in shaping policy directions and future curriculum practices. As such, the teacher educators in this project are identified as policy entrepreneurs and provocateurs. The paper details a dialogic research process between the researchers that was designed to make curriculum interpretation a more transparent, collaborative and generative process. The data reported illustrates the research process supporting teacher educators to engage in productive debate about the possible meanings and enactment of the five propositions. Analysis reveals differing perspectives on the propositions and a shared investment in efforts to support their progressive intent. Empirically, the paper highlights the critical role that teacher educators will play in the ongoing enactment of a new curriculum that is overtly identified as ‘futures oriented’. Conceptually, the paper adds depth and sophistication to understandings of teacher educators as policy actors. Methodologically, we propose that the research process described can be usefully adopted by other teacher educators and teachers engaged in similar processes of curriculum development, interpretation and enactment.



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