Julia is a member and former co-director of the Centre for Teaching & Learning. Her research interests focus on literacy and English education, specifically: reading, comprehension, dialogic talk, classroom discourse, educational disadvantage, teacher education and participatory research. The research draws on sociocultural and critical theoretical perspectives.

In addition to conducting independent and interdisciplinary research with colleagues in Psychology, Julia has considerable experience of engaging teachers in participatory forms of research, for example, on developing dialogic talk and reading with disadvantaged adolescent students to deepen teachers' theoretical and research knowledge; support critical reflection; and thereby achieve sustained developments in practice - see REF Impact Case Study (2014): 'Transforming policy, teachers’ practice and students’ learning in reading and higher-cognitive talk, through practitioner inquiry.' 


2006-the present: A series of longitudinal, qualitative and mixed-method research projects on reading, guided reading and exploratory peer talk, some funded by the former Teacher Development Agency and the Sussex University RDF fund, which have contributed to the development of policy and national training materials for secondary English teachers on the development of talk. These were produced by the Secondary National Strategy and distributed to all schools (English Subject Leaders' Development Materials: Spring, 2007).

Many of the above research projects have been participatory, engaging teachers, trainee teachers and school mentors as research partners. Teacher/researchers in schools are currently still engaged with independently developing these projects on reading and dialogic talk, further embedding findings from the original research and thus achieving sustained impact, as part of the Sussex Research and other networks. 

Recently funded research

2014-2016 Sussex Research Development Fund: Developing Secondary Students’ Reading Comprehension (PI), co-applicants Dr Jo Westbrook and Professor Jane Oakhill. This is an interdisciplinary project to develop teachers' theoretical knowledge and practice in reading comprehension and secondary students' measurable reading levels. Impact work for this project is on-going.

2011-2014 Evaluation of ‘Speak Out!’ funded by Paul Hamlyn. This longitudinal project was conducted in a school in an area of socioeconomic disadvantage and aimed to develop the oracy of all students, particularly those in receipt of the Pupil Premium, thereby enhancing their educational attainment and life opportunities.

Other recent research and impact activities 

  1.  Keynote ‘Transforming practice in reading for struggling readers’, March 12, 2019, CPD conference for Millais Alliance, Crawley. 

  2. Developing Dialogic, Exploratory talk, University of Sussex, 20 January, 2019, CPD event for all English mentors in the Sussex Consortium of Teacher Education & Research
  3. Keynote ‘Faster, immersive reading: developing readers’ engagement and comprehension’, Bede’s School Consortium Reading Conference, Hailsham, E. Sussex, 4 October, 2018
  4. Literacy as Social Practice Conference, ‘Engaging teachers in literacy as social practice: the value of dialogic and practitioner research’, University of Sussex, 10 September, 2018.
  5. Keynote, ‘An Immersive Faster Read: Ensuring students’ progress in reading’, Inspire Teacher Alliance, 26, June 2018
  6. Keynote ‘Beyond the toolkit: What is the value of dialogic teacher research?’ 7th Annual Teacher Researcher Conference, June 16, 2018, University of Sussex.
  7. OCR Annual Conference: ‘Immersive reading: engaging weak readers in reading and enhancing their progress’, March 16, 2018, London.
  8. Making Progress in Reading: an Immersive, Faster Read, November, 30, 2017, English and Media Centre, London
  9. Reunion for a ‘Faster, Immersive Read’, three years on, November, 15, 2017, University of Sussex. Event for all teachers/HoDs of English implementing a Faster Read to explore progress & impact on teacher knowledge & practices and secondary students’ reading development and engagement.
  10. ‘Challenging reading practices for struggling readers’, University of Sussex, 20 September, 2017: CPD session for all English mentors in the Sussex Consortium of Teacher Education & Research.
  11. BERA, ‘The impact of reading research on teachers’ knowledge and practices’, 5 September, 2017, University of Sussex, with Jo Westbrook.