Dr Sarah MacQuarrie

Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Education

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Research interests

Research interests:

My research interests involve a number of overlapping themes and are underpinned by the application of psychology in education. Indicative themes include:

Pedagogical and constructivist approaches to learning and teaching.

Role of classroom dialogue / discussion and how it can be used to support learning

How processes influence gains that come from classroom experience

Learning in and out of the classroom (including outdoor learning)

Dual language learners (also labelled as immersion education, bilingual education or content and language integrated learning)


Teacher engagement with research

(Research plans available here https://t.co/i76tlImo0L)

This collaborative project is currently in progress and involves a team across MIE. 

There is an increasing focus on evidence based practice in education and this requires teachers and professionals in education to make decisions when selecting content for use in their setting.

Teachers are recognised as having a demanding vocation with minimal time available to source and access research knowledge. It follows that evidence based practice marketed or recognised as being beneficial or effective is expected to be alluring.

MIE is rated as the top University provider of primary initial teacher training in the North West and has an established record of supporting students becoming teachers through multiple routes (PGCE primary, PGCE Secondary, School Direct, Teach First and through working with SCITTs (School-Centred Initial Teacher Training). This project will consider how MIE can capitalise on these routes and its relationship with a broad network of schools and educational organisations to consider how the research produced in and by MIE can have a more direct relationship with practice.


Becoming bilingual in Scotland – a focus on Gaelic medium education

For children enrolled in Gaelic medium education, Gaelic is identified as the first language, coupled with English. Thus, the main outcome of Gaelic medium education is to provide pupils with an equal footing in Gaelic and English languages. Yet, this goal is at odds with the paucity of research regarding typical language development in Gaelic/English learners and investigations focused on assessing and diagnosing language difficulties. The lack of appropriate research is concerning as parents attracted to Gaelic Medium Education may not be aware that after 30 years of provision; support mechanisms for children with additional support needs, such as assessment tools and dyslexia identification, continue to be in their infancy.


Lyon, F., & MacQuarrie, S. (2014). Assessment of reading skills in Gaelic-medium education: Exploring teachers’ perceptions and present practice. Educational & Child PsychologySpecial issue: Volume 31 (2) Bilingualism and Language Diversity.

MacQuarrie, S., & Lyon, F. (in press). Defying expectations: valuing the engagement of practitioners with research. Insights from minority language education in Scotland. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2017.1417414

MacQuarrie, S., & Lyon, F. (in press). A consideration of the inequalities apparent in Gaelic medium education linked to appropriate language assessment: an outline of the field and potential future directions. Educational Review. DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2017.1417236


Pupil and teacher interaction

Group work has long been documented as a feature of classrooms and within education can be separated into organisational and instructional approaches. When adopted as an instructional approach there is clear evidence from research that arranging and planning for group work is vital so that pupils and teachers can benefit. A focus of work I have undertaken in this area considered the role of the teacher and looked at how teachers used the introduction and conclusion of lessons to support the knowledge and content covered in lessons.


MacQuarrie, S. (2013). Briefing and debriefing: Investigating the role of the teacher within group work science lessons. International Journal of Educational Research, 62, 87-99. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2013.06.008

MacQuarrie, S., Howe, C., & Boyle, J. (2012). Exploring the characteristics of small groups within science and English secondary classrooms. Cambridge Journal of Education, 42 (4), 527-546. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2012.733345


Pedagogical Approaches and Outdoor Learning

The terms teaching and pedagogy are often associated with classrooms or schools, yet outdoor learning emphasises learning that links with schools/educational settings but is not bound by walls. This work has considered pedagogy when school-teachers implement outdoor learning and has looked more broadly at how cultural contexts ought to be interwoven with educational experiences.


MacQuarrie, S. (in press) Everyday teaching and outdoor learning: developing an integrated approach to support school-based provision. Education 3-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004279.2016.1263968

MacQuarrie, S. & Nugent, C. (in press) Considering children’s opportunities for exploration of their local environment and engagement with nature. In T. Waller (Ed) The SAGE International Handbook of Outdoor Play and Learning.

Nugent, C. & MacQuarrie, S. (2017) Natural settings: considerations for practice. In Buchan, N. A Practical Guide to nature-based practice. Bloomsbury, Routledge.

MacQuarrie, S., Nugent, C., & Warden, C. (2015). Learning with nature and learning from others: nature as setting and resource for early childhood education. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 15(1), 1-23 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2013.841095  


Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display