Joanne O'Keeffe


  • Room 02.012 - Sociology and Social Work

    United Kingdom


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research Interests

Dr Joanne O’Keeffe is a Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast. Joanne’s work is driven by her interest in addressing discrepancies and gaps in education in relation to mental health, academic attainment and take-up of higher education opportunities. Specifically, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, lower income households and other under-represented groups who may face barriers in education.

Joanne has also worked on numerous randomized controlled trials in education (RCTs). She has worked for the University for over 17 years and has experience of working across many different projects including international research projects.

She is interested in the research and evaluation of widening participation activities in Northern Ireland and currently supports Queen’s University Belfast, Widening Participation Unit (WPU) on suitable evaluation strategies of outreach delivery and creating and evidence-based practice within the Unit.


Professional Activities and Membership

Joanne is a member of the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work Ethics Committee, Queen’s University Belfast (2019 - present). In her Widening Participation work she is a member of the Russell Group Evaluation Forum (January 2020- present) and is also a member of the All-Ireland Primary Access Network (January 2020- present).

In recognition of her work to date, Joanne was awarded the 2023 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Special Interest Group in Cooperative Learning Outstanding Research Prize.

International Work

Internationally, Joanne sits as the Program Chair for the American Education and Research Association Cooperative Learning SIG (2021-24). Joanne is an Editorial Board Member for the International Journal of Education Research (IJER) (2019- Present) and she is also currently the Guest Editor for IJEDRO, Special issue: New Developments In Cooperative Learning.

Joanne is an Independent Expert Reviewer for the Cara Syria Programme, Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA). She is also an accredited Office for National Statistics safe researcher.


Joanne is an accredited Partner Trainer for PAX Good Behaviour Game © (November 2015- present), and she has trained over 40 teachers to date in the implementation of the PAX GBG in Northern Ireland and Scotland. She completed her PhD based on the PAX GBG, A Feasibility Study and a Pilot Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial of the PAX ‘Good Behaviour Game’ in Disadvantaged Schools’ in 2019.

Joanne has achieved the status of Associate Fellow (AFHEA) in recognition of attainment against the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and learning support in higher education (March 2023).

Joanne also works as a Research and Evaluation Advisor for the Widening Participation Unit (DASA, QUB). In her role here, Joanne provides training sessions for QUB Staff on Logic Model approaches for impact evaluation and KPIs. She advises and supports the team with evaluation of outreach delivery, advising on appropriate evaluative strategies for specific interventions e.g. logic models, evaluation plans.

Research Focus


Project Title: Train the Trainer: Improving Reading Comprehension in Primary Schools in England (2022 – 2023)
Funder: Education Endowment Foundation.

Project Title: Improving Reading comprehension in primary schools (2021-2025)
Funder: Education Endowment Foundation.
Info: Using Reciprocal Reading at scale in primary schools in England

Project Title: Reading for Meaning (2021-2023)
Funder: Nuffield Foundation
Info: RCT of Reciprocal Reading in Secondary schools in England.

Project Title: Lexia Reading Core5® (2022/24 trial)
Funder: Education Endowment Foundation.
Info: A trial to test the impact of Lexia Reading Core5® (Lexia), a computer-based integrated learning system that aims to improve reading skills by providing children with individualised reading instruction and practice in six areas: phonological awareness, phonics, structural awareness, automaticity, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension.


Project Title: Analysis of Equality and Diversity within Staffing Data in UK Higher Education: Raising Questions about the State of the Discipline of Education(2021-2022)
Funder: British Educational Research association

Project Title: Improving educational outcomes in high poverty schools in Colombia (2020-2021)
Funder: Department for the Economy - Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF)
Info: Pilot RCT of Paired Reading in Primary schools in Colombia - working in partnership with Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.

Project Title: Improving Reading outcomes for children affected by lockdown (2020-2021)
Funder: Economic Social Research Council (ESRC IAA)
Info: Pilot RCT of a targeted reading intervention in primary schools in North East England. 

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities


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