My main research interests lie in Educational Psychology, in particular, motivation, behaviour, cognitive strength variables and gendered subject choice and performance. I am currently working on several research projects.
· Multisensory training of the approximate number system to improve mathematical achievement in children: I am currently working with colleague Julie Castronovo on a study in Primary schools in Redcar. The approximate number System (ANS) is assumed to serve as a cognitive foundation for the elaboration or more advanced mathematical abilities (e.g. preschool children’s ANS acuity predicts their later mathematical achievement). Importantly, training the ANS has also been found to improve both the ANS acuity and mathematical achievement. The focus of this research is to train young children’s ANS with the introduction of a novel multisensory approach to improve their core numerical skills and their mathematical achievement. Recent research shows that multi-sensory stimulation facilitates approximate numerical processing. We predict that a multisensory intervention will help young children develop a greater ANS acuity and consequently greater mathematical achievement. If successful we hope to develop this intervention for secondary school children. This project is of high significance and may benefit children and educators in numeracy education. Providing new and effective interventions in teaching numeracy may lead to better educational outcomes and could be used with children who have mathematical learning difficulties.
· Sex differences in visuo-spatial processing: the impact of gender trait possession and gendered play choice on cognitive development: I am currently developing a research study in conjunction with Professor Maine from the Institute of Physics in London to investigate whether early play choice affects the development of visuo-spatial processing skills in young children. Up to the age of sixteen boys and girls perform relatively equally in STEM subjects but beyond that girls then choose to study language based ‘A’ Levels whilst boys are more likely to choose STEM subjects at ‘A’ Level and also report that they find these subjects ‘easy’. Girls and boys have qualitatively different play experiences throughout childhood and boys games and toys are often focussed on developing spatial skills. Visuo-spatial ability is a key factor in performance in STEM subjects. This study will examine the extent to which gendered play choice is associated with visuo-spatial skills in children/adolescents.
· Investigating cognitive strength variables such as mental toughness and its effect on wellbeing and attainment in children/adolescents: I am currently exploring interventions that focus on developing these constructs in children/adolescents in an academic context. I am interested in the effects of academic failure on development and how cognitive strength constructs such as mental toughness can protect the developing adolescent from health issues related to educational failures and pressures early in childhood/adolescence.