Sarah MacQuarrie


Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile


I am a psychologist whose expertise lies in the application of research into practice and use this in my position as Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Education at the University of Manchester. 

My substantive research interests address the development of materials and resources for use in real-world settings and includes considerations regarding the value of interaction in education (who is working with whom and how can it contribute to learning and experience). I have a keen interest in open science / open research.

I have a broad background in psychology and am recognised as a fellow (FBPsS) by the British Psychological Society.

Research to date has included pupil-teacher interaction and group work in Science and English classrooms and has expanded to include outdoor learning, wellbeing and teacher engagement with research. These projects have been conducted within a variety of settings, including primary and secondary schools, pre-schools, nature kindergartens and botanic gardens; using experimental and observational methodologies. Within each project the development of materials was a central component of the wider project. Recent research has included a focus on minority language education, including the assessment of language related cognitive processes, such as reading, with children who are becoming bilingual.

My academic credentials include an MA(Hons) in Psychology from the University of Glasgow, an MSc in Research methods in Psychology and a PhD in Psychology both from the University of Strathclyde.  My research and lecturing experience includes University of Strathclyde, University of the Highlands and Islands and Robert Gordon University.

I’m part of the Education and Psychology research group at Manchester Institute of Education.

Alongside Kelly Burgoyne I am co-convenor of CLEAR research group - find out more here.

I was Programme Director of the MEd in Psychology of Education 2019-2023.

I hold the Associate Director of Academic Advising and Student Wellbeing role and am the senior academic advisor for the School of Environment, Education and Development.

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

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.

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.


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.

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  


Research Opportunities & Supervision

Please feel free to contact me to discuss ideas for supervision / joint research. I would be interested in supervising students in topics that link with my research interests – please get in touch.


Doctoral Supervision:

Jia Song (1st Supervisor)

Joanne Taberner (1st Supervisor)


Doctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)

Patricia Lunt (2nd supervisor) completed

Frances Parker (2nd supervisor) completed




The majority of my teaching links to my role as Programme Director of the MEd in Psychology of Education and I also contribute to other courses within the University.

Under my direction the MEd was reaccredited by the British Psychological society and achieved two commendations reflecting exceptional provision for PGT students:


I am unit course unit director for

I contribute to other units including

  • Research Principles and Practice
  • Research Methods and Analysis
  • Psychological Perspectives in Child Development
  • Cognition and Education


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

Editorial board, Education 3-13 International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education

Editorial board, Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning

Editorial board, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs (JORSEN)

External Examiner, University of Leeds

Areas of expertise

  • L Education (General)
  • BF Psychology
  • LB1501 Primary Education
  • LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools


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