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This content is taken from the Queen's University Belfast's online course, Using Peer Tutoring to Improve Student Reading. Join the course to learn more.

Meet the Mentoring Team

At any stage during the course you may wish to make contact with one of the mentors. They are there to support and guide you through the three weeks of course content. Let us find out a little more about Allen and the other mentors who will be facilitating on this course.

Lead Educator

You have briefly meet Allen Thurston but find out more about his expertise here.

Allen is a Professor of Education at Queen’s University Belfast, Director of the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Zhengzhou University, China.

He is a former primary school teacher who has been researching how to improve literacy in schools for around 20 years. 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.

Allen is Editor in Chief of International Journal of Educational Research (IJER). He was awarded the 2013 American Educational Research Association Co-operative Learning Special Interest Group award for ‘Outstanding Research Contribution in the Field of Cooperative Learning’. This award was specifically linked to his work on peer tutoring in reading and mathematics. He is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and has Reviewed Grant Applications for Social Science Research Councils in Canada, Netherland, Oman and Portugal.


Maria Cockerill

Maria is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University Belfast, and Visiting Fellow at Durham and Newcastle Universities.

Maria’s research interests include improving learning in schools, specifically literacy (including language and communication from Early Years), with a particular focus on those children and young people from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds, and high achievement for all learners. She predominantly uses randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and is currently running two-large RCTs on improving literacy levels for pupils in schools.

She is also involved in knowledge mobilisation working directly with networks of schools across England. Working as part of successful teams in the North East of England, she has a proven track record in school improvement and systems change.


Nina O’Neill

Meet Nina who has been working as a Research Fellow in Queen’s University Belfast for five years. She is based within the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) and is currently working on a large scale randomised controlled trial (RCT) evaluating a phonics-based comprehensive literacy programme.

Joanne O’Keeffe

Meet Joanne, a long-standing Research Assistant at Queen’s University Belfast. She is also presently based within CESI and works on large research projects looking at developing literacy. The most recent of these is the Lexia literacy programme.

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This article is from the free online course:

Using Peer Tutoring to Improve Student Reading

Queen's University Belfast