Friday, 23 November 2018

Creating a common language - new post on BOLD blog

My latest blog post for BOLD looks at the suggestion that teachers and researchers need to create a common language in order for translation to be successful. In this post, I examine whether or not we do need a common language.

You can read the post here.

You can read my other BOLD posts here.

Friday, 9 November 2018

New paper: Language phenotypes in children with sex chromosome trisomies

I'm excited that a new paper from my time working as a Research Assistant with Professor Dorothy Bishop is out, in unrefereed form. It has been published in Wellcome Open Research which is a new open access online journal, where each paper is published before review. The peer review process is open and changes may be made to the paper following review.

The paper describes the language phenotypes of children with sex chromosome trisomies. The other research assistants working on this project and I (there are a quite a few of us!) spent a lot of time driving round the country to see give children with an extra sex chromosome (i.e. XXX, XXY, or XYY) a large battery of tests. We also saw many twins (with no trisomy) who provide control data for this sample.

The paper found that there is large variation in phenotypes across the different trisomies, and concluded that although there is increased risk of language problems in those with a trisomy, there is a range of possible outcomes.

You can read the full paper here.

Reference: Bishop DVM, Brookman-Byrne A, Gratton N et al. Language phenotypes in children with sex chromosome trisomies [version 1; referees: awaiting peer review]. Wellcome Open Res 2018, 3:143 (

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Teachers conducting research - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post for the Jacobs Foundation's Blog on Learning and Development (BOLD) is about teachers conducting their own research in the classroom. In the post I highlight the benefits of this for teachers and for the wider educational neuroscience community. You can read the post here.

My other posts for the BOLD blog can be found here.

Monday, 8 October 2018

School bullying - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post on the Blog on Learning and Development addresses school bullying and how it might be addressed.

You can read it here.

My other posts for the BOLD blog can be found here.

Monday, 1 October 2018

New job!

I'm really excited to be starting a new post as a Research Fellow. I will be continuing to work at Birkbeck, within the CBCD and CEN. Half of my time will be spent writing up papers and analysing data from my PhD, and the other half will be spent working on a public engagement project with Georgie Donati. We will be creating a short film (with the help of professional film makers!) about the adolescent brain, designed with and for teachers. If you're a teacher and would like to be involved in this project please do get in touch. Our aim is to make it as useful and engaging as possible. Watch this space for the final finished product!

Thank you to Birkbeck and the Wellcome Trust ISSF for supporting this work.

IMBES conference 2018 and award

I'm currently on my journey home after a great time in LA at the University of Southern California for the 2018 International Mind, Brain, and Education Society (IMBES) conference.

There was a fantastic pre-conference for trainees, where I was lucky enough to give a talk about my research in collaboration with teachers, and the public engagement work I've been involved with. Thanks to the Jacobs Foundation I was one of six awardees to be named an "Exceptional Trainee" in the field of mind, brain, and education, in policy and practice. I was delighted to be given the award, and am thankful for the appreciation of work that is not always recognised in this manner within academia. I'm looking forward to continuing more work that brings science to education, with the help of teachers.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

PhD submitted!

Last week I submitted my PhD thesis! As you can imagine, it was a huge relief, and now I await the viva. My thesis is entitled "The cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning in adolescence". I put my abstract into a word cloud generator which gave me this cool image:

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Desirable difficulties - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post on the BOLD blog introduces the concept of desirable difficulties in learning. This is the idea that making learning difficult can sometimes lead to better outcomes.

You can read the post here.

There are some handy resources on this topic from the Learning Scientists, and this topic was covered on the Learning Zone.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Interview on the Centre for Educational Neuroscience website

I recently gave an interview to the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, which I am a member of. You can see a video of me describing my research, followed by a blog Q&A about my thoughts on educational neuroscience, here.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Learning Zone

The Learning Zone is over! It has been a fascinating six months of conversations between scientists and teachers, and a real pleasure to work with so many people who are enthusiastic about bringing the latest scientific evidence to the classroom.

The resources will remain online, so do check out the topic summaries, questions, answers, and live chat transcripts.

Many thanks to the Learning Zone team, and moderators Su Morris and Kathryn Bates.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Thinking about thinking - New post on BOLD blog

In my latest post for the Blog On Learning and Development (BOLD) I introduce the concept of metacognition, and how it might help students to learn. There is lots of evidence around the effectiveness of metacognition as a tool to improve learning, and the concept is becoming more well known in the education field.

In 2016 I was involved in a play for secondary school students that centred around the idea of metacognition. It is a concept that goes beyond learning for school, with the actors and audience empowered by their new understanding that we can work towards changing our thoughts and behaviours.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Inhibitory control and counterintuitive science and maths reasoning in adolescence

A paper that I wrote with my PhD supervisors has just been published in the journal PLoS ONE. The paper describes a behavioural study with 90 teenagers, where we investigated the role of inhibitory control in counterintuitive science and maths reasoning.

We found that adolescents who were better at inhibitory control (stopping an automatic response) were also better at counterintuitive science and maths reasoning. This suggests that teenagers are using their inhibitory control in order to suppress the intuitive, incorrect answer when reasoning about counterintuitive concepts. The paper forms part of my research investigating the cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning in adolescents.

The paper is freely accessible here.


Professor Michael Thomas spoke about these new results in his talk at the London Festival Science, and this led to our paper receiving the following media coverage.

"Neuroscientists urge teachers to give pupils time" in Tes.
"Take your time to get things right" in Birkbeck news.
"Pupils should take their time to get things right, research reveals" in UCL Institute of Education news and events.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Screen time for children - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post for the Blog on Learning and Development (BOLD) is about children's screen time. In the post I look at the evidence relating to the effects of screen time during development.

After I wrote this post (but before it was published), an interesting article on the same topic appeared in the Guardian, which I'd also recommend reading.

My other posts on the BOLD blog can be found here.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Reflections on the EARLI SIG 22 Neuroscience and Education conference

The European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Special Interest Group (SIG) 22 on Neuroscience and Education conference was held at the Wellcome Trust in London from 4th-6th June 2018.

This was a particularly exciting conference for me, as I am the Junior Coordinator of the SIG, and organised the conference with Lia Commissar from the Wellcome Trust. Lia and I spent a long time thinking about what we wanted the conference to achieve and how best to achieve it.

Back in 2016, Lia ran the pre-conference for the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) conference in Toronto. During the pre-conference, Lia collated responses to various discussions that were had throughout the day, and together we wrote a summary of the pre-conference. The summary contains a list of recommendations for funders, researchers, and conference organisers, based on IMBES delegates' discussions. We found the list to be really useful in the organisation of the SIG 22 conference.

One of the recommendations was to take an inclusive approach in acknowledging the varying backgrounds of attendees, which is particularly relevant in our interdisciplinary field. We asked all presenters and delegates to define acronyms and make discussions accessible to everyone. We felt the speakers did a great job of this, although we did get feedback that a good idea for the future would be to define key terms at the beginning of the conference. This is a great idea and I hope that this will feature in future conferences, perhaps with a list of key terms and their definitions within the conference booklet.

Another recommendation we took on board was to use more discussion-based approaches, to allow experts to share their knowledge to consider how best to move the field forward. The third day of the conference was therefore an Open Space event. This format enables anyone present to suggest a topic of discussion. The topics picked by delegates were wide-ranging, and it was encouraging to see so many people talking who may not have done so otherwise. The session I suggested had just one other attendant but it was a teacher-trainer who I likely would not have encountered otherwise, and we had a really useful discussion for how I can move a project I'm working on forward. We had a lot of positive feedback about the Open Space session, with many delegates admitting they were unsure about the idea at first, but found it to be immensely helpful and enjoyable in the end.

I'm absolutely delighted with how the conference went, and feel that there was generally a positive and friendly environment throughout the whole event. I've heard lots of talk of "action points", with delegates leaving with a list of steps to take to move their project or the field forward. We've had good informal feedback so far, and are now awaiting responses to our evaluation questionnaire to see what we can do even better in the future.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Nature and nurture in education - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post for the BOLD blog explains what the term heritability means, and what heritability estimates might mean for education.

This was inspired partly by recent news stories reporting heritability estimates, and partly by discussions on the Learning Zone about heritability.

Heritability seems to be surrounded by misunderstandings, which I feel may be stifling important debates about genes in education. In the post I explain what scientists mean when they use this word, and why the science underpinning it may not be exactly what you think.

I believe that with a better understanding of heritability, sensible debates about what we do with this information can proceed.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Precision education part 2 - new post on BOLD blog

I have written a follow up post to my introduction to precision education. In the second post, I consider in more detail what the benefits of a precision education approach to teaching and learning might be.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Precision education - new post on BOLD blog

My latest post on the BOLD blog is all about precision education. In the post I consider what precision education might hold for the future, and briefly what the benefits might be. Watch this space for the next post which will go into more detail about the potential benefits of this approach to teaching and learning.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Educational neuroscience infographic

The Blog on Learning and Development (BOLD) have released a new interactive infographic about educational neuroscience. It introduces the concept of educational neuroscience and describes the challenges, criticisms, and goals of the field.

Check it out here!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Neuroscience, psychology and education: Emerging links

I'm really excited to have a new article out, co-written with Professor Michael Thomas. The article appears in Impact, a journal from the Chartered College of Teaching, made for teachers.

The whole issue is dedicated the science of learning, and covers a host of topics including retrieval practice, sleep, mindsets, and mindfulness. Some of the articles are freely available online, and a copy of this issue has been sent to every school in the country, so look out for it teachers!

Our article gives an overview of educational neuroscience, with discussion of the challenges faced by the field, and some examples of how neuroscience research might relate to education. Read it for free here.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Researchers and teachers discuss the science of learning

Calling all teachers – check out the Science of Learning Zone and speak to researchers about the latest scientific findings.

The Wellcome Trust funded Science of Learning Zone is a place for researchers and educators to discuss the science of learning. The event is running from January until June, and each fortnight features a new set of scientists with expertise in a given topic area.

This fortnight, the topic is Early Development. The Zone features some introductory text for each topic. In Early Development, the text covers the development of reading, writing and basic mathematics skills. The Ask function allows teachers to pose questions to the scientists, and weekly hour-long live chats enable more in depth discussions in a forum style chat.

An easy way to get involved is to simply browse the questions that have already been asked, and read the responses and comments given.

This fantastic event is part of the Wellcome Trust Education and Neuroscience initiative.

This post first appeared on the NPJ Science of Learning community.

Monday, 15 January 2018

The academic disadvantage of being born in the summer

I have written a new blog post for the NPJ Science of Learning community about the academic disadvantage of being born in the summer. Find out what the evidence is and what we could do about it here.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Fifth post on BOLD blog - Fostering a growth mindset

My latest post for the Jacobs Foundation's Blog on Learning and Development is all about growth mindsets. Mindsets are popular in education at the moment, and in this post I took a look at what the evidence is behind them. It is freely available here.

My previous posts on the BOLD blog
Bringing evidence to the classroom: The rise of educational neuroscience
Neuromyths in education: Separating fact from fiction
Identifying what works in education: The challenge of conducting research trials in school
Brain training for children: Can it have a meaningful, long-term impact on performance?