I have a BSc (Hons) in Biology from the University of East Anglia, and a MA in Linguistics and PhD in Human Communication Science from University College London. My first career was as a Montessori nursery teacher and teacher-trainer. As a teacher, I became fascinated by young children’s language and early literacy development, and by how language and literacy set the foundation for academic learning. I was particularly interested in those children in my class who appeared to have difficulties acquiring language and early literacy skills. When I returned to university in 2000 I probably should have studied speech and language therapy, but instead I studied linguistics. I was then very fortunate to be accepted as a PhD student by Heather van der Lely, at the Centre for Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience. For my PhD (2001-2004), I researched the past tense impairment that is characteristic of English-speaking children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), attempting to disentangle the cumulative effects of impairments in phonology, morphology and syntax on the realisation of past tense verbs.
I stayed on at UCL (2004-2007) to do post-doctoral research, working on a project with Heather van der Lely and Franck Ramus where we investigated phonological impairments in children with SLI and dyslexia. In 2007 I took up a lectureship in the Division of Language and Communication Science at City University of London, and taught language development and developmental psychology to trainee speech and language therapists. I was awarded an Early Career Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust in 2008-2011 to continue some work that I had started with Gary Morgan on deaf children’s sign language development.
In 2011 I joined the Institute of Education as Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Human Development, and was promoted to Reader in 2013. In October 2017 I was promoted to Professor of Psychology, Language and Education. In 2011-2012 I was Programme Leader for the Graduate Certificate in Psychology, and in 2012 took over the leadership of the Masters in Special and Inclusive Education, which I led until 2016. From 2017 I am Programme Leader for the MA/MSc in Educational Neuroscience. I teach on most of the Master’s programmes in the Department of Psychology and Human Development, as well as on the Master’s in Literacy Learning and Literacy Difficulties in the Department of Learning and Leadership. I also supervise PhD students.
My current research interests are varied, and encompass typical language and literacy development; developmental disorders of language and literacy; phonology and its developmental relationship to morphology, syntax and the lexicon; the cognitive skills underlying typical and atypical language acquisition in hearing and deaf children; the phonology and morphology of English, and of British Sign Language; the organization of the lexicon in spoken and signed languages; and the evaluation of educational interventions for spoken and written language. I collaborate with colleagues at the IOE, UCL, City University of London, the University of Kent, Lund University, the University of Padova and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Our research is funded by the British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, Economic and Social Research Council, Education Endowment Foundation, and the UCL/IOE Strategic Partnership.
I am passionate about delivering research-based teaching which is scientifically rigorous, current, and intellectually challenging in content. I am never happier than when working with the motivated and talented students who choose to study at the IOE. Other professional activities include reviewing papers, conference abstracts and grants; editing (I am Editor-in-Chief of the journal First Language and am on the editorial board of several others) and examining (I am external examiner for the University of Kent’s MSc in Developmental Psychology and the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Inclusive Education). I also sit on the management committee of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, which is a joint venture between the IOE, UCL and Birkbeck.
You can find out more about my work here, on the UCL website.