School of Education

Image of Pat Thomson

Pat Thomson

Professor of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



Professor Pat Thomson PSM PhD FAcSS is Convenor of the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy (CRACL).&nbsp. Pat is known for her interdisciplinary engagement with questions of creative and socially just learning and change. Much of this work has been in collaboration with Professor Christine Hall.

Pat has a long term research partnership with Professor Barbara Kamler with whom she writes about academic writing (see publications). Her academic writing and research education blog 'patter' is archived by the British Library and posts are frequently republished elsewhere. She tweets as @ThomsonPat and is a coordinator for #acwri, a regular chat about academic writing. Her research activities can be seen on a range of websites - the TALE project, the Signature Pedagogies project, I worked at Raleigh, the Get Wet project, Performing Impact, Cultural Value and Live Art, and Quality in Alternative Education.

She is an Editor of the international peer refereed journal, Educational Action Research (Taylor and Francis) and a Senior Editor for the forthcoming online Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Education.

She is an Adjunct Professor at the Free State University, South Africa, Visiting Professor at the University of Iceland, a Visiting Professor at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia and a visiting Associate in the School of Education, University of Western Ontario.

She sits on the steering committee of the Tate Learning Research Centre and she is 'resident ethnographer' with the Tate Schools and Teachers team.

She is a Trustee of the charity Sociological Research Foundation Limited (SRFL).

Some history: Pat joined the School of Education in 2003 and completed a five year term as Director of Research during which time she coordinated the School's successful RAE submission. She also worked for five years as Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies. Before coming to The University of Nottingham, she directed the professional doctorate in education and an offshore PhD programme at the University of South Australia. She was Deputy Director of the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures. She previously managed strategic planning in the state education department. Before that, she was principal of Paralowie R- 12 for eleven years, deputy principal at The Parks, and founding Coordinator of Bowden Brompton Community School. She has represented Australian principals on national policy making bodies and at international conferences, and was President of the South Australian Secondary Principals Association. She was a member of national and state policy making bodies and has extensive experience in equity policy development. She was awarded a Public Service Medal in 1991, a Fulbright Scholarship in 1992, the Garth Boomer Curriculum prize from the Australian Curriculum Studies Association in 1995, and the Australian Association for Research in Education Outstanding Thesis award in 2000.

Other scholarly service: Pat is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Educational Administration and History, Teaching Education, Education Review, the Journal of Education Policy, International Journal of Leadership in Education, International Journal of Research and Methods in Education, the Australian Educational Researcher, Ethnography and Education, Improving Schools and the Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations.

She reviews regularly for the Australian Research Council and other research funding bodies.

Research Summary

Her current research focuses on creativity, the arts and change in schools and communities, and postgraduate writing pedagogies. She is currently devoting more time to exploring, reading and thinking… read more

Pat is a member of the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy. Her research interests are underpinned by a commitment to social justice and an interest in questions of power, identity, place and agency. Current research focuses on:

  • the changing work of school administrators
  • postgraduate writing pedagogies and creativity
  • the arts
  • school reform

She has had extensive involvement in school, family and community programmes and is keen to work closely with practitioners and pupils as co-researchers. She has expertise in:

  • policy
  • sociology
  • cultural geography
  • text-based and arts informed research methods

Research topics of current and recent students include:

  • retention and early departure of headteachers
  • teenage mothers and schooling
  • the health and wellbeing agenda in schools
  • Australian identity in school readers 1900-1918
  • the implementation of new curriculum policy in Hong Kong
  • gender and school leadership
  • the philosophical bases for practitioner action research the diagnosis of ADHD
  • the implementation of the national primary strategy
  • leading inclusive schools
  • the citizenship experiences of new adult arrivals in the UK
  • the underachievement of African heritage children
  • the capability approach and 'students at risk'
  • aesthetic experiences in an arts specialist primary school

Research proposals: please email Pat if you would like to discuss the appropriateness of your research topic. See also: School of Education research supervision areas.

Current Research

Her current research focuses on creativity, the arts and change in schools and communities, and postgraduate writing pedagogies. She is currently devoting more time to exploring, reading and thinking about imaginative and inclusive pedagogies which sit at the heart of change. She is also looking at the ways in which innovative approaches to schooling are spread with /against policy agendas - and within and between countries. She maintains an interest in the changing work of school administrators and in children and young people who do not get the full benefits of education. All of her research is underpinned by a commitment to social justice and an interest in questions of power, identity, place and agency.She has had extensive involvement in school, family and community programmes and works closely with practitioners and pupils as co-researchers. She has expertise in policy, sociology and cultural geography and has a particular interest in text-based and arts informed research methods. She frequently uses visual research methods in her work.

Current Research Projects:

Arts Council England: Royal Shakespeare Company Education and Tate Schools and Teachers, Tracking arts learning and engagement ( TALE) With Christine Hall. £296,985.

Tate Learning: Circuit Longitudinal Study of young people. With Becky Coles. £60,000

Serpentine Gallery evaluation of the Wirkd without Walls programme, with Anton Franks Tate Schools and Teachers team: Summer schools 2012 -2015; and In Site of Learning, a co-constructed research pilot project.

AHRC collaborative doctoral programme: Partnerships to involve hard to reach young people in the Circuit youth arts programme. With Emily Pringle, Tate Learning. Doctoral researcher: Nicola Sims.

Past Research

Recently Completed Research Projects:

Tate Circuit Scoping a longitudinal study, with Rebecca Coles

New Art Exchange: Bubble arts partnership, with Rebecca Coles

The Princes Trust: What's the alternative? Effective support for young people disengaging from the mainstream. With Jodie Pennachia

AHRC Cultural value programme. The value of live art: What can making and editing film tell us? with Emily Pringle, Tate Learning

AHRC cultural value programme: Cultural value in the CCE archive. (with additional funding from CCE)

Culture, Creativity and Education Signature pedagogies: ethnographic studies of artists at work ( with Chris Hall), see

Get Wet: the Papplewick water literacies project with Mary Biddulph, Natasa Lackovic, Gary Mills and Andy Townsend, local schools and Nottingham artists. ( Esmee Fairbairn, Garfield Weston Trust), see

AHRC Connected Communities Scoping Study Performing Impact: narratives, texts and performances in community theatre, with Christine Hall, Julie Sanders and Jem Bloomfield ( School of English)

Culture, Creativity and Education: Evaluation of knowledge transfer in the Royal Shakespeare Company Leading Practitioner Network ( with Chris Hall, Ken Jones, Anton Franks)

Pupil mobility in the county ( with Kay Hawe)

Leading school case studies (CCE)

NCSL Models of change leadership ( with Chris Day)

Arts Council UK/Creative Partnerships (2006-2008) The impact of Creative Partnerships on whole school change, with Christine Hall, and Ken Jones and Nafsika Alexiadou (Keele)

Nottinghamshire Arts Partnership (2008-2009) Evaluation of Nottinghamshire Arts Partnership, with Christine Hall and Edd Sellman

Pupil research project with Helen Gunter (U Manchester) and Knutsford High School

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2005-2006) Mapping the provision of alternatives to permanent exclusion with Belinda Harris and Lisa Russell

ESRC Seminar series RES-451-26-0165 (2004-2006) Engaging critically with pupil voice: children and young people as partners in school and community change, with Bridget Somekh, (MMU), Michael Fielding, (Sussex) and Jane MacGregor, (Networked Learning Communities)

ESRC RES-000-22-0834 (2004-2006) Promoting social and education inclusion through the creative arts, with Chris Hall and Lisa Russell (Nottingham)

Australian Research Council (2002-March 2005) An investigation of the declining supply of principals in Australia, with Jill Blackmore (Deakin) and Judyth Sachs (Sydney)

BECTA bursary. (2004) Enhancing a networked learning community with ICT, with Liz Brown and PSLN schools The full report is available on

Children's Fund: A formative evaluation of the Mansfield Alternatives to Exclusion (MATE) strategy (2005), Pat Thomson, Belinda Harris, Kerry Vincent Richard Toalster, (CREDE, University of Nottingham)

DfES Innnovations ( 2004) Evaluation of innovations in Knutsford High School with Helen Gunter ( U Manchester)

DfES (2003-2004) An investigation of queries that school offices receive from parents/carers, with Linda Ellison, Tina Byrom and Donna Bulman (Nottingham) The final report is available on

McWilliam, E; Taylor, P; Thomson, P; Green, W; Maxwell, T Wildy, H; Simons, D (2002) Research training in doctoral programs: what can be learnt from professional doctorates? Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs The final report is available from

Sanderson V and Thomson, P ( 2002) Discipline and diversity: The impact of punishment on the learning of Aboriginal students. ARC funded research: Final Report .

Thomson, P (2002) Active citizenship action research projects. Final report. Canberra: Civics and Citizenship Education Professional Development Programme

Thomson, P ( 2002) Strengthening school-family relationships. Policy and professional development materials. Hobart: Tasmanian Education Department.

School of Education

The University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 5559