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Psychology & Education

Research and teaching members of this thematic cluster are engaged in aims at describing and understanding human behaviour related to learning and development from a psychological perspective. Such perspective studies learning and development as dynamic, complex, non-linear, and life-long processes of intra-individual change.

Learning and development are impacted by a wide range of characteristics of the person, the task, and the situation. Psychological research of learning studies the complex interplay between learner characteristics, learning content, and learning context. Psychological research in education is part of the multidisciplinary approaches typical for education as an application-focussed field of study. It uses correlational, longitudinal, and to a large extent, experimental approaches.
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A poster explaining what the Psychology & Education cluster does, how and why.



Cluster Themes

Research Projects

Current (funded) research projects cluster members are involved in include:

  • 2021 – 2024: Australian Research Council (ARC): Creating a paradigm shift in understanding cognitive flexibility by overcoming psychometric rigidity
    Jens Beckmann in collaboration with Damian Birney (University of Sydney), Sally Cripps (University of Sydney), Rui Nouchi (Tohoku University, Japan)

The objective of this research project is to contribute to a dynamic theory of intellectual functioning that reflects the processes involved within individuals when they have to manage change in cognitive demands across different situations and across different tasks as is typical for coping with complex, dynamic environments in everyday life. In this project the team will develop and employ (1) new task paradigms to measure dynamic processes involved in cognitive flexibility, and (2) devise new approaches to model and analyse complex data structures mapping changes within individuals. The outcome of this research is expected to provide impulses for further improving intervention strategies related to training and rehabilitation, but also to help informing selection decisions across a broad range of applied contexts. This project brings together an international team of experts in experimental research in individual differences, measurement of cognitive abilities, Bayesian modelling, data sciences, cognitive training, and neuro-science. It also will provide an exciting environment for early career researchers ranging from research assistants, graduate students and post-doctoral students.

  • 2022 – 2024: Nuffield Foundation: The longer-term impact of Covid-19 lockdown on primary pupils' writing skills
    Karen Jones, Jens Beckmann, Jochen Einbeck, Jens Beckmann, Bilal Ashraf (all Durham University)

This project aims to evaluate the general and differential effects of Covid-19 lockdown measures on educational attainment and longer-term progress in writing in primary and Year 7 secondary school pupils. Using existing, but under-utilised data on writing skills of around 400,000 pupils aged 5 to 12 (Years 1 to 7) this project seeks to extend our knowledge and understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on education in general and inequalities in education in particular. Modelling and analyses will compare gender, disadvantage (Pupil Premium eligibility), school types and regional variations, as well as whether the level of influence of being in particular teaching groups/classes or schools has changed during the lockdown year. The longitudinal nature of the data allows to study processes of recovery over time. Our work will inform policy and practice, to support decisions for targeted funding and interventions to aid recovery and reduce attainment gaps.

  • 2017 – 2022 Education Endowment Foundation: Evaluation of ReflectED. Durham University and York Trials Unit (University of York). Louise Gascoine (Durham University), Louise Tracey, Carole Torgerson (Department of Education, University of York), David Torgerson, Caroline Fairhurst, Lyn Robinson-Smith, Kerry Bell (York Trials Unit, University of York)

The objective of this evaluation is to evaluate the effectiveness of a whole school metacognition focussed intervention called ReflectED. ReflectED is an intervention developed by Rosendale Primary School and was delivered over 5 school terms to 9116 students across 112 primary schools from January 2018 to July 2019. An in-depth implementation and process evaluation was conducted alongside the impact evaluation. The primary outcomes in the impact evaluation were attainment in mathematics and reading for students in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, we also gathered data using the Junior Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (JrMAI) to explore metacognition as an outcome for students in Key Stage 2.  

Doctoral research projects cluster members are involved in include:

  • Language Learning Aptitude. Fangfang Du (Doctoral Student)

The purpose of this project is to develop a dynamic test of children's language learning aptitude. The central feature of dynamic tests is that they embed learning opportunities within the test itself, which will be achieved by providing standardised feedback during the test. The language test focuses primarily on language learners' ability to benefit from feedback regarding the acquisition of semantic and syntactical information using an artificial language. The objective of this research project is twofold. (1) to develop an assessment tool that allows to measure language learners' potential, and (b) to determine its effectiveness in predicting meaningful learning outcomes. The expected benefit of this research project is to be able to identify language learning potential especially in those learners who have had limited educational opportunities. This will contribute to making education more equitable.

Study with us

For prospective supervisees at PG and PhD level: If your research interests are linked to any of those topics listed above, or if you want to find out more about these research topics, please contact the respective colleague or the cluster lead Professor Jens Beckmann via email.

Members of the cluster teach on the following courses: Foundations of Psychology in Education (level 1), Learning and Development in Childhood (level 2), The Science of Learning (level 3), Education, mental health, and wellbeing (level 3), Psychological Perspectives on Learning (level 4), Learning and Individual Differences (level 4).




Get in touch

For further information contact the cluster lead