Dr Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson is an Associate Professor of English Education, joint convenor of the Oxford Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research (OSAT) and a Fellow of St. Hugh’s College. He is also a member of the university’s English Faculty.

After completing English Literature degrees at the Universities of Leicester and Victoria (Canada) Ian worked as a journalist, lecturer and theatre director. He then taught for sixteen years in comprehensive secondary schools in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire as an English teacher, the last ten years of these as a Head of English.

Whilst working full time as a teacher Ian studied part time at the University of Bristol and completed his PhD in Education in 2010. Ian was appointed to his post at the University of Oxford in 2011. He  is the lead Tutor for English on the PGCE English course  and teaches on the MSc in Learning and Teaching. In his current research, Ian focuses on English pedagogy, teacher education, learning, and social justice in education from a Vygotskian and sociocultural theoretical perspective.

Ian would welcome informal contacts from prospective doctoral students interested in the following topics:

  • Cultural historical activity theory and sociocultural perspectives in education
  • English and drama subject pedagogy
  • Collaborative learning for teachers and students
  • Social justice in education
  • Teacher education
  • School exclusion


From 2000 to 2007 Ian worked in collaboration with other teachers and researchers on the InterActive Education Project (University of Bristol) on the role of ICT in the classroom.  He held DfES Best Practice Research Scholarships from 2000-2004.  Ian has presented talks on his research at international conferences and at various forums for secondary school teachers.

Ian’s current research projects include:

  • Collaborative learning for teachers and pupils.
  • Poverty and initial teacher education.
  • Literacy across the curriculum.
  • Learning to teach writing in culturally diverse settings.


  • Thompson, I (2014) Designing Tasks in Secondary Education Enhancing Subject Understanding and Student Engagement.

Book chapters

  • Thompson, IC (2014) “Communication, Culture, and Conceptual Learning: Task design in the English classroom”, In: IC Thompson (ed.) Designing Tasks in Secondary Education: Enhancing subject understanding and student engagement.. Routledge.

  • Thompson, IC “Introduction: Tasks, Concepts, and Subject Knowledge”, In: IC Thompson (ed.) Designing Tasks in Secondary Education: Enhancing subject understanding and student engagement. Routledge.

Conference papers

  • Thompson, I, Spencer, I, McNicholl, J (2013) Student Teachers’ Perceptions of Poverty. (Brighton)

  • Thompson, I (2013) Learning to Teach Writing in culturally Diverse Settings: Complexity and Contradiction for the Student Teacher. (Munich)

  • Menter, I, Mutton, T, Thompson, I (2013) Poverty and Initial Teacher Education: Policy, Practice, and Social Justice. (Istanbul)

  • Ellis, V, Thompson, I (2013) Developing Students’ Knowledge of Phonics in Secondary Teacher Education. (Liverpool)

  • Thompson, I, Wittek, L (2012) Writing as a Complex Activity: Mediating the Development of Mind. (Belgrade)

  • Thompson, I (2011) The Construction of Zones of Proximal Development through Classroom Interaction. (Rome)

  • Thompson, I (2011) Writing Through Mediated Activity. (Oxford)

  • Thompson, IC, Daniels, H A Social Network Analysis of School Advice-Seeking Patterns to Support Vulnerable Learners: A Critical Methodological Account.

Journal articles

  • Thompson, I, Tawell, A (2017) “Becoming other: social and emotional development through the creative arts for young people with behavioural difficulties”, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. 1-17.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13632752.2017.1287342

  • Thompson, I, Wittek, AL (2016) “Writing as a mediational tool for learning in the collaborative composition of texts”, Learning, Culture and Social Interaction. 11 85-96.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lcsi.2016.05.004

  • Ellis, S, Thompson, I, McNicholl, J, Thomson, J (2016) “Student teachers’ perceptions of the effects of poverty on learners’ educational attainment and well-being: perspectives from England and Scotland”, Journal of Education for Teaching. 42(4) 483-499.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2016.1215542

  • Burn, K, Mutton, T, Thompson, I, Ingram, J, McNicholl, J, Firth, R (2016) “The impact of adopting a research orientation towards use of the Pupil Premium Grant in preparing beginning teachers in England to understand and work effectively with young people living in poverty”, Journal of Education for Teaching. 42(4) 434-450.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2016.1215551

  • Thompson, I, McNicholl, J, Menter, I (2016) “Student teachers' perceptions of poverty and educational achievement”, OXFORD REVIEW OF EDUCATION. 42(2) 214-229.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2016.1164130

  • Thompson, I (2015) “Researching contradictions: Cultural historical activity theory research (CHAT) in the english classroom”, English in Australia. 50(3) 21-26.

  • Thompson, I (2013) “The Mediation of Learning in the Zone of Proximal Development through a Co-constructed Writing Activity”, RESEARCH IN THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH. 47(3) 247-276.

  • Thompson, I (2012) “Stimulating reluctant writers: a Vygotskian approach to teaching writing in secondary schools”, ENGLISH IN EDUCATION. 46(1) 85-100.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1754-8845.2011.01117.x

  • Thompson, I (2012) “Planes of communicative activity in collaborative writing”, Changing English: Studies in Culture and Education. 19(2) 209-220.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1358684X.2012.680766


  • Elliott, VF, Baird, J-A, Hopfenbeck, TN, Ingram, J, Thompson, I, Usher, N, Zantout, M, Richardson, J, Coleman, R (2016) A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. Education Endowment Foundation.

  • Tawell, A, Thompson, I, Daniels, H, Elliott, V, Dingwall, N (2015) Being Other: The Effectiveness of Arts Based Approaches in Engaging with Disaffected Young People. Oxford University Department of Education.



  • Department staff

College affiliation

  • St Hugh's College


  • Associate Professor of English Education

Subject area

  • D.Phil
  • MSc Learning and Teaching
  • PGCE English

Research groups

  • OSAT
  • Teacher Education and Professional Learning

Publications, books and other work