Meeting teacher expectations for a professional development programme (PDP) is expected to strengthen sustainable applied competence as programme outcome since teachers will be more motivated to apply the programme content in practice. A revised distance learning (DL) programme was augmented by a practical component comprising a work-integrated portfolio and audio-visual material, aimed to support the applied competence of practising teachers in the South African context. An evaluation of the way the programme measured up to teacher expectations was deemed critical for future DL programme design. A qualitative study based on an interpretivist philosophical approach collected data of teacher expectations for and of the practical component through multiple methods. Their contributions were linked with four main themes related to applied competence as identified in the literature. Participant expectations and experiences with regards to each theme were compared by means of electronic coding through ATLASti™. The findings show a strong correlation between expectations for and experiences of the way the practical component supports the elements of applied competence. Since DL is viewed as a viable and cost effective way to improve teacher competence in developing countries, these findings serve as impetus for further investigation and refining ways to support applied competence in a distance learning professional development programme (DL PDP).