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Assoc Professor Jennifer Symonds

Assoc Professor

Jennifer Symonds

Associate Professor
School of Education
+353 1 716 7995
University College Dublin, School of Education, Roebuck Offices Belfield Dublin 4


Research Programme My research focuses on how people engage with their learning during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. In the Engagement in Learning, Schools and Societies Lab (ELSS Lab) we use data rich microgenetic designs to explore how momentary engagement in learning works as a dynamic system. We also analyse longitudinal data to examine how educational engagement and participation develop within organisational contexts and across educational transitions. Our work informs the science of learning, where engagement is a precursor to knowledge acquisition and consolidation, and the science of instruction, with a focus on helping teachers engage students at risk of educational disaffection and drop out. In 2010 Jennifer graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil and PhD in Education and Psychology. These degrees followed several years in the UK spent working as an English Literature and Language teacher with a specialism in the middle years of schooling. In 2000 Jennifer obtained a BA in Biological Anthropology with a minor in the History and Philosophy of Science, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her interdisciplinary approach facilitates cross-disciplinary collaboration with colleagues and gives her a culturally infused, biologically grounded perspective on developmental science. At UCD, Jennifer is the joint lead investigator of Children's School Lives, the Irish national longitudinal cohort study of primary schooling, funded by the NCCA. Together with Prof. Dympna Devine (lead investigator) and Dr. Seaneen Sloan (co-investigator), Jennifer and the CSL team are working with over 200 schools, and 4,000 children and their parents, school teachers and principals, to explore what primary schooling is like for children in Ireland. She is also a co-investigator on Safe Learning, a randomized controlled trial of 100 schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa, funded by Concern Worldwide. Nationally, Jennifer coordinates the Centre for Longitudinal Studies in Ireland (CLSI). The CLSI brings together researchers from the Growing Up in Ireland, TILDA and Children's School Lives studies, and other researchers from across Ireland interested in longitudinal studies. The CSLI is free to join and researchers and practitioners from Ireland and around the world are encouraged to register as members. At the UCD School of Education, Jennifer is Director of Research on the Doctorate in Educational Psychology programme. Jennifer welcomes applications from prospective PhD students interested in how children, adolescents and young adults engage in classrooms, schools and societies. Web Links


  • Senior Research Fellow
    Trinity College Dublin1 Nov 2015 - 31 Jul 2016
  • Dissertation Chair in International Psychology
    The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, United States1 Sep 2014 - 31 Aug 2015
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    The University of Helsinki1 Sep 2010 - 31 Jan 2012
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    The University of Bristol1 Oct 2009 - 31 Aug 2010
  • Research Assistant
    The University of Cambridge1 Mar 2008 - 31 Dec 2009
  • Regional Team Leader
    The University of Cambridge1 Mar 2008 - 31 Dec 2009
  • Statistics Instructor
    The University of Cambridge1 Sep 2008 - 31 Mar 2010


  • Research assistant
    The Nuffield Foundation1 Sep 2009 - 31 Aug 2010
  • Principal Investigator of Changing Key
    Paul Hamlyn Foundation1 Mar 2010 - 30 Sep 2011


  • MPhil
    University of Cambridge
  • PhD
    University of Cambridge


  • Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol)
    British Psychological Society
  • Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)
    UK Teaching Council1 Jan 2004