Eleven senior academics participated in presentations, and five participated in all aspects of data collection (i.e., the Head of School, Head of Teaching and Learning, Head of Research, Course Director and the Unit Chair). Two declined the post-program interviews due to lack of time and four did not respond to the interview invitation.
Six lecturers were involved in curriculum re-development discussions and co-design (moving from feasibility to implementation). Five of these lecturers delivered Transform-Ed! to pre-service teachers.
The intervention was delivered across three Victorian campuses (one metropolitan and two rural), to 274 undergraduate pre-service teachers (i.e., 18 at Warrnambool campus, 77 at Waurn Ponds campus, 179 at Burwood campus). Of these, 258 students completed the survey (36) before and after the intervention. The majority were aged between 17 and 21 years (71%), female (76%), and were enrolled in the Bachelor of Education (Primary) (78%) in their first year (63%). Thirty pre-service teachers participated in the focus group discussions.
High lecturer adherence was consistently reported for transmission of content related to active lessons, active breaks and health-related curriculum (Table 3). Four of the lecturers also reported high adherence in relation to embedding content related to active environments and engaging families in their teaching material.
Summary statistics of lecturer adherence checklist responses by domain
Active academic lessons
Active breaks from sitting
The results from linear mixed models showed significant improvements in pre-service teachers’ perceptions regarding their own willingness (B = 0.54, 95% CI [0.22, 0.86], p = 0.001), confidence (Bin class = 1.76, 95% CI [1.31, 2.21], p < 0.001; Bout of class = 1.72, 95% CI [1.15, 2.29], p < 0.001) and competence (B = 2.84, 95% CI [2.38, 3.30], p < 0.001) in implementing physically active pedagogic strategies, following the intervention. Also, the perceived effectiveness of such strategies on student outcomes increased (B = 1.75, 95% CI [1.32, 2.18], p < 0.001) and perceived barriers decreased (B = − 8.25, 95% CI [–9.73, − 6.77], p < 0.001). Baseline and follow-up standardised predicted margins of each outcome of interest are presented in Fig. 3. The effect sizes of the intervention were small for pre-service teachers’ willingness (f 2 = 0.04), moderate for perceived effectiveness on student outcomes (f 2 = 0.27) and confidence out of class (f 2= 0.26), and large in relation to confidence in class (f 2 = 0.43), perceived barriers (f 2 = 1.13) and competence (f 2 = 2.71). Complete results of effects on pre-service teachers’ perceptions adjusted for gender, age, course, and year level are available in Additional file 5.
Stakeholder interviews ranged from 35 to 75 minutes (mean duration 49 minutes). Lecturer interviews ranged in duration from 22 to 45 minutes (mean duration 34 minutes). Pre-service focus group discussions ranged in duration from 15 to 20 minutes (mean duration 18 minutes). Qualitative results from interviews with each participant level reported RE-AIM dimensions separately. An overview of the major themes emerging from interviews with stakeholders and lecturers are summarised in Fig. 4.
Three major themes emerged from the stakeholder interviews about enhancing program reach. The first was the need for ‘inter-systemic’ program dissemination. This includes identifying specific ‘levers’ across the multiple systems that may enact change, or conversely, hold current practice in place. Stakeholders unanimously reported that ‘learning should be across multiple systems’ and we need to ‘broaden our view’ of what systems need to be involved.
‘To transform practice, you need to work with all levers across multiple systems, the broader the dissemination the greater the likelihood of change.’ (Stakeholder 2)
The second theme was to align or create a ‘shared vision’ with the relevant stakeholders across these systems to generate early and ‘genuine buy-in’.
‘We need to identify a shared problem, and importantly identify this program as the shared solution to the problem. This generates buy-in right from the start.’ (Stakeholder 1)
Thirdly, stakeholders highlighted numerous existing channels for dissemination within the faculty. For example, faculty-wide bulletins and newsletter, whole school meetings, site director meetings, course level days and major course reviews were highlighted as potential avenues to ‘get the program on the whole-of-school agenda’.
Five major reach-related themes emerged from the lecturer interviews. Knowledge and education were reported as being enablers of reach. This was regarding knowledge transmission to both intervention deliverers and intervention receivers. For example, one lecturer reported:
‘The pre-service teachers really understood that these were such important skills for all teachers to learn – for classroom management, transitions, and overall effective teaching. They felt that it would help them become better in the classroom. Getting this information out there early and more widely is essential.’ (Lecturer 5)
As mentioned by key stakeholders, ownership was also a prominent theme in lecturers’ discussion of the reach of the program. This related to empowering the intervention deliverers, involving them in co-design and giving them ownership of program content, design and delivery.
‘I actually felt empowered by it [co-design] as I was gaining knowledge and building a resource bank – this meant I could disseminate the messaging more broadly, more widely and more consistently.’ (Lecturer 1)
Another facilitator to reach was that the program was ‘evidence-based’ and practice informed, enabling transferability to practice.
‘The results speak for themselves. This is its selling point and how you will get it out there. It’s based on such sound evidence and then when you take this toolbox [active teaching strategies] and experiment first-hand with them, it is transferred immediately.’ (Lecturer 2)
Sufficient provision of support and resources, coupled with flexibility to adapt the program, also emerged as a dominant theme.
‘I was able to include all the key concepts and resources in each session but as it is a very versatile program; I could adapt it as needed to reach the different cohorts.’ (Lecturer 2)
Lecturers suggested that if the program could be prioritised at an organisational level and prescribed in policy and curriculum documents (e.g., embedded in unit learning outcomes teacher standards and registration), it may enhance the reach further.
‘Exposure to other areas of the curriculum across the education faculties is essential, it needs to be incorporated into all subject areas within the universities.’ (Lecturer 3)
Three major effectiveness themes emerged from stakeholder data. All three were associated with impact. Stakeholders collectively agreed that evidence of program impact across three separate, but interrelated, levels would be the ultimate measure of effectiveness. This included change in teacher practice, a change in school culture, resulting in the ‘ultimate indication of program effectiveness’, improved student educational outcomes.
‘All other measures of effectiveness are really just proxies. What we really need to show is transformed practice at a school level to improve student outcomes.’ (Stakeholder 1)
‘The health, wellbeing and educational outcomes of a student is the ultimate indicator of impact.’ (Stakeholder 3)
Four major themes regarding effectiveness emerged from the lecturer interviews. The lecturers shared that the ‘effects of the program were immediate’ and that the practical and experiential learning provided the pre-service teachers with ‘real evidence’, and subsequently significantly enhanced their learning.
‘The pre-service teachers were not only learning about these strategies but they were experiencing them and experimenting with them. It was this practical and experiential learning that consolidated the theory.’ (Lecturer 4)
Another major theme positively influencing effectiveness was the ‘embedded nature of the program’. Key content was embedded in each seminar and lecture across all weeks of the unit, as well as being integrated into curriculum documentation and assessment tasks. In addition, lecturers reported that they ‘actively modelled’, discussed and educated the pre-service teachers around the key aspects of the program in every session. Further, they provided opportunity for the pre-service teacher to experience receiving the content (as a student) and delivering the content (peer micro-teaching).
‘I think the pre-service teachers need to see how it works in practice. For this to become a real prospect for them they need to see it, be part of it and practice it. Without that integrated or embedded practice it may be hard for them to translate into their teaching when they are graduates. I think that is one of the best aspects of this program – its embedded across all aspect of the unit, lectures, seminars and assessment.’ (Lecturer 4)
Lecturers reported that their increased levels of ownership and empowerment as a consequence of the co-design process and resultant growth in program knowledge, confidence and passion positively influenced program effectiveness.
‘I am a practising primary school teacher as well as a lecturer, so I was able to contribute a real-life perspective and make this applied. It was like connecting the research to practice and gave me real ownership as I was bringing in real life examples from my teaching.’ (Lecturer 5)
The lecturers also reported that there was significant growth in the pre-service teachers’ confidence and motivation as the program progressed. Moreover, the lecturers perceived that the pre-service teachers enjoyed, were satisfied, and had a positive experience with the program, which subsequently enhanced effectiveness.
‘From a lecturer perspective it was observing their [pre-service teachers’] passion and drive grow over the unit; to be active teachers. They realised that there is no other way; this is the only way. For the pre-service teachers, it was the belief in themselves, realising that they can now do it with the skills that they have. They feel equipped with their new ‘teacher toolbox’ to be active classroom teachers.’ (Lecturer 2)
Lecturers suggested that limited exposure of the program, both across other units in the course, as well as other years of the degree, may be a barrier to effectiveness.
‘The lack of consistent exposure and dose of active breaks and active teaching across their course will be a challenge. This is the only unit across the entire degree that they are exposed to active teaching the lack of exposure may dilute the message. Also being in first year, they have such a long time before they are out teaching that they may forget the message.’ (Lecturer 1)
Via focus group discussions, pre-service teachers (n = 30/30) unanimously reported positive perceptions of the program. Although a few (n = 5/30) shared feelings of apprehension at the beginning, many expressed that the program effectively equipped them with skills, strategies and knowledge, resulting in increased confidence.
‘Although I was nervous that I would not have the skills and knowledge to be able to do so, as the unit progressed the excitement remained but the nerves went away as I was provided with many resources and examples of how to conduct physical education classes and involve physical activity into my classroom which made me feel a lot more confident.’ (Pre-service teacher 1)
Many of the pre-service teachers (n = 21/30) reflected on the growth in their knowledge and understanding of the importance of integrating physical activity in their teaching.
‘My views, feelings and values that I possess surrounding the importance of physical activity levels have been reinforced and strengthened throughout. It has been extremely useful to learn ways in which to incorporate more activity into the generalist classroom. I have a significantly greater understanding of the value of active breaks and the integrated curriculum. I feel a lot more confident to deliver appropriate, active, fun lessons.’ (Pre-service teacher 11)
Most of the pre-service teachers (n = 22/30) expressed that the program effectively provided a transferable skillset, viewed as a ‘value-add to their generalist classroom teacher toolkit’.
‘There are so many strategies that I have learnt from this program that I am going to include in my teaching, like including movement-based activities into normal lessons, which was not something that I would have thought about doing. I never realised that generalist teachers could do that sort of thing in their classroom, or even that they needed it. All these strategies that I have learnt are going to improve my teaching in many ways.’ (Pre-service teacher 10)
Stakeholder interviews revealed three major adoption themes. Firstly, stakeholders suggested that there needed to be a ‘disruption of perspectives’ and an ‘exposure of contradictions’. Primarily in unpacking the shared purpose, vision and priorities of pre-service teacher education more broadly among academics, and respectfully but critically highlight how current practice contributes to this purpose, or contradicts it.
‘Our primary purpose, our work here is to teach people, not just to teach content. We need to make the connection between teacher practice and student outcomes, regardless of content. By understanding this sole purpose, we, the collective we, may begin to see the disconnect between what we to do and what we actually need to do. However, we should not only expose this contradiction but provide a solution.’ (Stakeholder 4)
‘We need to understand what holds things [current practice] in place. Once we understand this we can start to shift or transform this.’ (Stakeholder 1)
The second theme that emerged as a facilitator to program adoption regarded utilising an ‘authentic collaborative process to create a shared vision’.
‘It [Transform-Ed!] should be based on shared ideas and true collaboration – both researcher and lecturers need to be willing to share, learn and change.’ (Stakeholder 3)
The third theme was ‘evidence of impact’. Specifically, stakeholders shared that the program had the capacity and potential to transform initial education, teacher practice and student outcomes simultaneously.
‘The beauty of this program is that it situates in the middle of the conversation, the high-end measure here is student learning. If we can show improved student outcomes, you know that you are changing teacher practice. With this evidence you will have more people willing to adopt.’ (Stakeholder 1)
Three themes emerged from the lecturer interviews. Again, most prevalent was knowledge and education. The lecturers conveyed that the more they learned about and experienced the program, and the more they observed the results, the more willing and passionate they were to adopt it.
‘The more I learn about this program and the more I see the impacts of it, the more convinced I am to use it in my teaching.’ (Lecturer 1)
The lecturers reported that the co-design/co-develop aspect of the program enhanced feelings of ownership and empowerment. They reported on the idea of personal ‘buy-in’ and ‘passion’ for the program. In addition, the lecturers stated that the co-design aspect ensured that the program was practice informed. As such, the lecturers used their experience as teachers to feed into the evidence-based program.
‘Researching additional activities and bringing examples from my own teaching made me feel truly part of this. I could then also advocate for these activities as I knew they really worked in practice. I had ownership and could authentically add value to what was already there.’ (Lecturer 4)
The lecturers reported that although they felt the support and resources provided were sufficient, an increased amount and diversity of resources, especially around active breaks and active lessons, may have led to greater levels of adoption.
The major implementation themes emerging from stakeholder interviews included the simultaneous transformation of practice, being embedded in professional practice and alignment to personal and professional priorities. Regarding the simultaneous transformation of practice, the stakeholders referred to how a change in pre-service teacher practice required concurrent changes at the school level. They made mention of ‘true implementation impact’, suggesting that the ‘life’ that a practice, tool, resource or artefact takes on in a school is the real indictor of successful program implementation.
‘Making the tool or resource [available] is not enough, you need to implement it and embed it in practice, to ultimately transform practice. This is when the artefact takes on a life of its own. It is then that you can measure this change in practice. And that is your impact.’ (Stakeholder 1)
Similarly, implementing the program into professional practice emerged as a prominent enabler. Stakeholders made mention of the need for ‘clearer links, connections and pathways to professional practice’ to enable broader and more effective implementation. Consistent messaging from placement supervisors, coordinators and placement setting staff, to ensure pre-service teachers feel well equipped and supported to embed the practices into their teaching was also perceived as important. Stakeholders again reported on the need for ‘true collaboration with a broad range of potential deliverers’ to understand priorities and practices and subsequently create a shared vision for program implementation.
‘To take this to other areas of the curriculum and bring on board more people to implement the strategies, first you need to understand why they do what they do, why they don’t already teach in this way, and then you need to make clear links and benefits of this program to their practice. You will need to be open to learning and shared understanding, just as they will be – this is true collaboration.’ (Stakeholder 2)
Three major themes emerged from lecturer interviews. Consistent with previous domains, knowledge and education again emerged as dominant. Lecturers conveyed that the more they were educated about the program the more empowered, confident and motivated they felt to implement the program. Lecturers also reported that their previous exposure and experience in delivering the active breaks and lessons (e.g., via the feasibility study) was invaluable, and again contributed to increased feelings of confidence.
‘When I delivered it for the second time, I then knew exactly what and where the breaks and activities were. I was much more confident and well versed the second time around. I actually think seeking out my own active breaks gave me more ownership and confidence in the unit. I knew exactly what I had to do and when I needed to do it.’ (Lecturer 3)
The lecturers also perceived that knowledge and education were powerful ‘change agents’ in regard to pre-service teachers’ attitude, confidence and willingness to implement the Transform-Ed! key messages in their current (peer micro-teaching) and future (school) teaching.
‘A lot of pre-service teachers came in saying they were not skilled enough, not confident enough to do the unit. They realised quickly that these skills and strategies were accessible to all. They quickly understood the importance of integrating physical activity into their teaching, and how transferable they are to teach any content in the curriculum.’ (Lecturer 1)
A theme that emerged as both a facilitator and barrier to implementation was ‘consistent exposure’. The lecturers conveyed that as the content was formally embedded and integrated across every aspect of the targeted unit (i.e., in lectures, seminars, assessment, curriculum planners, discussion board posts, experiential learning experience) it allowed for consistent and repeated exposure of program messaging across that unit. Of note was the practical application of the messages, both in regard to lecturer modelling of practices, as well as pre-service teacher experiential learning. However, unanimously the lecturers reported that exposure of the program in one unit only is not enough to elicit long term change in teacher practice, school culture and student outcomes.
‘I think we need more ‘champions’ – more people demonstrating these pedagogies – so that the pre-service teachers have constant exposure to it. More units across first year and also the program spread across more years of the course.’ (Lecturer 2)
As with adoption, another influential implementation related theme was the co-design/co-develop aspect of the program. Lecturers conveyed that they felt ‘empowered’ and shared feelings of ‘program ownership’ which facilitated implementation.
‘By choice I invested in a range of resources for lecture active breaks. This was not essential and could be avoided, but I was empowered to provide as many examples as I could, so I happily sourced out these extra activities and examples.’ (Lecturer 1)
Pre-service teachers unanimously (n = 30/30) shared that the program had a positive influence on their perceived ability to implement diverse teaching strategies. This particularly regarded increased knowledge gained, the practical and transferable nature of the strategies and the ‘value now placed on classroom-based activity’. What follows is just an example of the multiple comments pre-service teachers made in relation to the perceived value of the program:
‘With the knowledge I have received from this unit I now have lots of ideas and activities that I can incorporate. I will aim to integrate these things into the curriculum to enhance the children’s learning processes and reduces the likelihood of the students becoming distracted, especially if they are being active and moving around rather than being sedentary.’ (Pre-service teacher 21)
The major themes to emerge from stakeholder interviews regarding maintenance included the need for an inter-systemic approach, for the program to be embedded in professional practice and for the program to provide a ‘transformation of practice rather than just translation into practice’. Stakeholders also shared the importance of understanding what holds current practice in place, what prevents change.
‘There is a need to have all the key players or levers across multiple systems, sitting around the one table at the one time. This includes people like the timetablers, resource and facility managers. These people are often left out but are actually critical to the logistics of making or preventing change.’ (Stakeholder 1)
Stakeholders also reinforced the need to ‘create clear pathways into professional practice’ and then measure the impact of the program on teacher practice and student outcomes. The final theme that emerged was the ‘need for transformation, rather than just translation’.
‘Numerous programs can be translated from research to practice or from setting to setting. But for a program to really stand the test of time, it needs to be transformational. To enact change in and on the human system.’ (Stakeholder 1)
Following the implementation trial, the program has been sustained for two additional trimesters, by all lecturers at the three campuses. Further adaptations have been made by the lecturers to enhance contextual fit. This has largely included greater exposure to active strategies via modelling, the provision of more resources and further opportunities for peer teaching and greater emphasis and priority in assessment tasks. Moreover, lecturers were able to adapt the program quite significantly to successfully deliver in an intensive format in Term 3, 2019, and an online format due to the impact of COVID-19 in Term 1, 2020.
‘I was able to include concepts even in the variation in delivery due to COVID-19. For the online lectures we were quite creative by providing videos to demonstrate the active academic sessions which the preservice teachers really enjoyed’. (Lecturer 3)
Four major themes related to perceived facilitators of maintenance, emerged from the lecturer interviews. Again, the idea of consistent and repeated exposure of messaging across the unit was prevalent.
‘They [pre-service teachers] need to see the consistent and repeated exposure of these practices. Without this, by fourth year it will be diluted. If they can see it modelled and have experimentation with teaching across their whole course and in professional practice. This reaffirms what they are learning and will help them embed it into their teaching practice.’ (Lecturer 2)
Similarly, the program being ‘embedded in practice’ was a perceived facilitator of program maintenance. Lecturers reported that as the content was embedded in lecture and practical curriculum and modelling, in set peer teaching opportunities and experiential learning, ‘the program just become part of [their own] regular teaching practice’. However, lecturers also shared that if the program were formally embedded into teacher professional practice, it would have a more sustained impact on pre-service teachers.
‘It [Transform-Ed!] needs to be built into the professional practice experience, and there needs to be more support. The more they experience it in practice, the more these concepts will be consolidated and become part of their regular practice.’ (Lecturer 2)
To further enhance program maintenance, lecturers suggested incorporating ‘program champions’. They reported that early adopters (i.e., lecturers) and undergraduate teachers would be well placed to advocate more broadly for the program.
‘We could also rely on the pre-service teachers – we have given them some foundational knowledge and strategies to deliver curricula actively and they have had such a positive experience. If they question other lecturers as to why they are not seeing these strategies in their lectures or seminars – the demand may ignite interest in more lecturers.’ (Lecturer 4)
The lecturers suggested that there needs to be system or organisational level changes for the program to be expanded, prioritised and sustained. They suggested that the program needs to be embedded across more units and more years of the course, embedded within professional placement experiences in schools, and prioritised in Graduate Teacher Standards.
‘There needs to be a system level approach to this. Modelled from the top down and bottom up – if we can get it into all aspects of teaching and learning, as research, then I think we will have a chance to really impact teaching.’ (Lecturer 2)
The majority of the pre-service teachers (n = 25/30) reflected that the skills and strategies learned across the unit, would be very much part of their future teaching, and that this program has ‘shaped’ and ‘informed’ the type of teacher they wanted to become.
‘This has given me a broader understanding of physical activity and how I can incorporate greater activity into my classes when I become a teacher. I know how important it is to get kids active and I will aim to do this in all aspects of my teaching.’ (Pre-service teacher 2)
Not only did the teachers report that they would incorporate these strategies into their own teaching, but many (n = 18/30) suggested that they would ‘advocate for change’ or be ‘champions of active teaching’ when out in schools.
‘My feelings towards the importance of physical activity in school have definitely developed and I have gained a wider knowledge on it. That strategies that I have learnt in this unit will be reflected in my teaching when I become a teacher and will shared with all the other staff at my school.’ (Pre-service teacher 17)