Professor Allen Thurston

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
Professor Allen Thurston

Professor Allen Thurston

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Allen's research interests include improving learning in schools and research methods. His school based work looks at how to raise attainment for those students from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds. He predominantly uses randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and is currently running two-large RCTs on improving literacy levels for students in schools. His pedagogical expertise lies in the area of cooperative/peer learning. He has published extensively in this area. Allen is Editor in Chief of International Journal of Educational Research (IJER). He is on the Editorial Board of Technology, Pedagogy and Education. He was awarded the 2013 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Cooperative Learning SIG award for 'Outstanding Research Contribution in the Field of Cooperative Learning'. He served as Secretary/Treasurer of the AERA Cooperative Learning SIG from April 2014 until April 2017. He is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and has Reviewed Grant Applications for Social Science Research Councils in Canada, Portugal, Oman and the Netherlands.

I have undertaken research collaborations to produce research outputs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, USA, Columbia, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Poland, France, Malta, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Vietnam and China.

Research Interests

Open to PhD applications in:

  • Cooperative learning

  • Peer tutoring

  • Randomised controlled trials (both development and exploratory trials)

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Public outreach & key achievements

Schools e.g. 1) All 38 Irish medium schools in Northern Ireland have been given professional development based on the Thurston’s work on peer learning initiative during 2015 and 2016 in partnership with CCEA 2) A professional development day was held on using peer learning in reading for all schools in the Teesside partnership.

The event at Sedgefield Racecourse attracted 125 school as participants in November 2016). Professional development was provided as part of a Greater London Borough Council conference on teaching to over 500 teachers in June 2017. The Learning Together in Mathematics publication was viewed over 8000 times (as of May 2019) by teachers through the Times Educational Supplement website between 2013-20. This represents about one in six teachers in the UK in KS2. In 2017/18 all 1080 schools in NI have had access to Thurston’s work on peer learning in reading via the CCEA teacher portal. This included video/interview footage from Thurston and updated resources for teachers. A MOOC has been developed on peer learning and hosted by Future Learn. This has been widely available to school and so far over 2500 teachers have signed up for this and over 40% of those have completed it. To complete the course then the technique must be used in the teacher’s classroom. This means an impact on 28000 pupils (based on an average class size of 28 students). Learner comments from the first run of the course have been very positive. Thurston has given invited research presentations on peer learning at Zhengzhou University China, Paderborn University Germany, Columbus State University USA, to the Department of Education Chile and to the AERA SIG on New Development s in Cooperative Learning USA. Thurston and Cockerill were used as external advisors to a project involving Britanica University in Santiago, Chile and University of Barcelona on peer learning. They provided feedback on existing work and helped staff from University Britanica, University de Chile and University of the Andes develop new research funding bids to the Chilean Government.

Research students

PhD area A randomised controlled trial of mind maps and peer learning in statistics education 
Name Mehmet Filiz 
Years of study 2015-2019 
Country Turkey 


Alumni: Where are they now

PhD area A randomised controlled trial of peer tutoring in elementary school mathematics 
Name Prof Mohammed Aleid 
Years of study 2010-2014 
Country Saudi Arabia 
Current Position Professor of Mathematics education King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia 
PhD area A randomised controlled trial of peer tutoring in primary schools 
Name Prof David Miller
Years of study 2004-2007 
Country Scotland  
Current Position Professor of Education, University of Dundee   
PhD area A randomised controlled trial of the Good behaviour Game 
Name Dr Joanne O’Keeffe 
Years of study 2015-19 
Country Northern Ireland 
Current Position Research Assistant Queen’s University Belfast  


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