Simpson, A., Stein, M., Rosenberg, M., Ward, B., Derbyshire, A., Thornton, A. L., & Jackson, B. (2023). Early childhood educator outcomes from online professional development for physical literacy: A randomised controlled trial. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 102464.

Key take home message

These research findings highlight the positive effects of online physical literacy professional development for early childhood educators. By improving educators' knowledge, application, confidence, and reducing barriers, the program paves the way for enhanced programming based on developing children’s physical literacy in the early childhood education sector. This will help develop the essential foundation for an active and healthy lifestyle in our youngest children.


In a ground-breaking research study, the impact of an online physical literacy professional development course on early childhood educators was explored. The study aimed to assess the effects of the program on educators' physical literacy knowledge, application, confidence in delivering physical activity, and perceived personal barriers. The results shed light on the potential of online training to make a significant impact in early childhood education and enhance physical literacy instruction. 

The research

Early childhood is a crucial phase for children's physical literacy development. However, many educators often lack the necessary training to provide appropriate physical literacy opportunities. Recognizing this gap, researchers conducted a parallel two-arm randomized controlled trial involving 88 early childhood educators. Participants were assigned to either the intervention group, which engaged in the online professional development program, or the control group, which continued with standard practice.


The findings revealed a significant positive impact of the online program on educators' physical literacy knowledge and application. Those who participated in the intervention group demonstrated significantly higher scores in these areas compared to their counterparts in the control group. This suggests that the online program effectively enhanced educators' understanding of physical literacy concepts and their ability to implement them in practice.

Boosting Confidence & Breaking Barriers

Additionally, educators in the intervention group reported higher levels of confidence in delivering physical activity. The online professional development equipped them with the necessary skills and knowledge to feel more empowered in delivering  programs based on developing physical literacy in young children. Furthermore, participants in this group reported lower perceived personal barriers to physical activity, indicating that the program positively influenced their attitudes and perceptions surrounding physical activity.

Implications for the Early Childhood Sector

The outcomes of this research project hold great promise for the early childhood education sector. The study emphasizes the potential of online professional development to address the training gap among educators and improve physical literacy instructional outcomes. By providing accessible and effective training opportunities, early childhood educators can be better equipped to nurture children's physical literacy development during this critical early childhood time.


Read the full research paper