Professor of Education and Social Research, University of Dundee

Keith Topping is Professor of Educational and Social Research.

His main research focus is Peer Learning (including peer tutoring, cooperative learning, peer assessment, and so on) and other forms of non-professional tutoring (e.g. by parents, assistants or volunteers) - in core skills (e.g. reading, spelling, writing, thinking skills, science, mathematics, information technology) and across subject boundaries, in all sectors and contexts of education and lifelong learning. These methods are targeted to: raise achievement; enhance motivation, self-esteem and confidence; develop social, communication and other transferable skills; and promote inclusion.

Keith is director of the Centre for Peer Learning. He directed the Higher Education Effective Learning Project (peer assisted learning between students in college and university). He was co-director of the national Read On project (cross age peer tutoring in reading and thinking, coupled with parental involvement at home) and of the national Problem-Solving project (cross age peer tutoring in mathematical problem-solving, coupled with parental involvement at home). He was engaged in the Group Work Scotland ESRC TLRP project in cooperative learning in science and subsequently a TLRP progression project investigating collaborative learning in primary-secondary transition funded jointly by ESRC and the Scottish Executive (Groupwork Transition). This was followed by the national Scotland Reads project involving volunteer tutors aged 16-25. A large scale design experiment investigating value added by different types and intensities of peer tutoring in reading and mathematics was funded by ESRC and Fife Council in collaboration with the University of Durham ( The effectiveness of peer tutoring (as tutor or tutee) as a major component in a randomized controlled trial of after-school programmes for juveniles at risk in the criminal justice system in Washington DC was then funded by the US Department of Education.

Keith was a member of the International Reading Association task force charged with translating the PISA and PIRLS research studies of achievement in 37 countries worldwide into culturally relevant policy and practice guidelines. He was convenor of the Parents in Education Research Network. He has worked several European projects, for example: a five-country project on online learning for parent trainers and parents in maths and science and helping the Maltese government develop parent trainers. He also has interests in problematic behaviour in schools, leading the Scottish Executive project on Promoting Social Competence in schools and co-directing the international Intervening with Disturbed Adolescents project. He also has interests in electronic literacy and computer aided assessment.

Recently he has worked with Scottish Government on the development of the Primary One Literacy Assessment and Action Resource (POLAAR) literacy assessment system for pre-school children ( He has also been involved in projects exploring parent involvement in language development with children aged 0-3 years, using 24-hour recordings and computer analysis of these. He has also been working on studies of quality of implementation of book reading and outcomes in primary and secondary schools. He has also been involved in a series of books about peer learning.


  • –present
    Professor of Education and Social Research, University of Dundee