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I joined the Department's Psychology in Education Research Centre as a Lecturer in September 2012, after a decade spent working on the Twins’ Early Development Study (TEDS) at King’s College London. My research explores environmental influences on pupil achievement, wellbeing and behaviour using genetically sensitive designs.
I am especially interested in the ways in which our genes influence our experiences at school, home and elsewhere (genotype-environment correlation); and in environments that are different for children growing up in the same family (non-shared environment). Much of my research involves examining the differences between identical twins in search of non-shared environmental influences that affect children’s development.
I am also interested in finding practical ways of using the lessons that emerge from behavioural genetics to enhance current approaches to education.
I am currently working on a study entitled: Understanding and influencing pupils’ choices as they prepare to leave school, with Professor Robert Plomin at King’s College London. The study is funded by the Nuffield Foundation. In the first instance we will send a screening questionnaire to over 3000 pairs of 16 – 19 year old identical twins asking them and their parents about educationally relevant differences between the twins at 16, and about aspects of their experiences which might explain these differences. We will then move on to interview the most discordant twins and to design a new measure of relevant non-shared environmental influences on choices, achievement and well-being at the point at which young people make the transition out of compulsory education.
I am also involved in on-going research with the TEDS sample funded by the UK Medical Research Council and the US National Institutes of Health exploring the relationship between the school environment and academic achievement. In particular I am currently working on analyses relating to bullying, maths learning environments, and school type.
The ultimate aim of my research is to identify aspects of the school environment that make a difference to pupils, after genetic influences on individual differences have been taken into account. In time this research will help us to recommend ways of making schools more genetically sensitive and better equipped to draw out the individual potential of every child.
I work closely with the Twins’ Early Development Study (TEDS) team at King’s College London and am also a peer reviewer for several academic journals.