Professor John Ravenscroft

Chair of Childhood Visual Impairment


After my first degree in Psychology I became very interested in Cognition, Language and especially Child Language. By various routes I ended up taking a Masters degree in Philosophy and Psychology of Language, this opened up a whole new world of Ontology and Cognition, and for a while I became very interested in Primate Cognition and Primate Thought and for many years I carried around inside my head what it is to be as Donald Davidson would say a "Rational Animal" 

Meanwhile I got on with my life and went to live as you do in New Zealand, Japan, China, Australia and spent some time in Mongolia. Upon my return to the UK after several years working in the Psychology department and even the Parapsychology department at Edinburgh University developing my understanding of the nature of representation and what it means to represent something in an internal processing system, human or articfical. This led to my PhD which is grandly called the "Ontology of Inductive Systems". 

Understanding representation eventually led to me to sight loss and visual impairment. What are the representations of children who have no vision became very important question and as I began to anwer this I became the manager of Visual Impairment Scotland, and created the first UK child visual impairment notification system. I also became the Head of the Scottish Sensory Centre and went to Australia for 18 months to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children to develop and create Australia's first visual impairment notification system. Again upon my return I became Deputy Head of Department for Educational Studies, and was also the Head of Institute for Education, Teaching & Leadership (ETL). 

 I followed this period of academic managment with more, being the Deputy Head/Dean of Moray House School of Education and often Acting Head/Dean of Moray House School of Eduation until 2016. 

I am now Professor of Childhood Visual Impairment, and still very much interested in the nature of representation and the evolutionary process of cognition (of those that can and cannot see). 



  • BSc (Hons) Psychology
  • Master of Arts "Philosophy and Psychology of Language"
  • PhD (Edinburgh) "Ontology of Inductive Systems"

Undergraduate teaching

  • Education 1: Childhood
  • Education 4: Research Methods
  • BA Childhood Practice: Research Methods (2b)

Postgraduate teaching

  • The Nature of Enquiry Collaborative Working in Children's Services

Areas of interest for supervision

I am keen to supervise research under the headings above. I currently have three PhD students covering areas of visual impairment and sport, transition and language. I would particularly like to hear from any students interested combining my interest regarding the nature of representation and disabilities.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Lynn McNair- Rules, Rules, Rules And We're Not Allowed To Skip: Listening To The Children's Voices About The Transition To Primary One

Research summary

Specific areas of interest include: visual impairment inclusion childhood and disability studies the nature of representation primate cognition evolution of the casual mechanisms of cognitive growth.

Project activity

  • School-age Sight Testing in Scotland
  • Profile of Children with Visual Impairment in Scotland and Australia
  • The Competences of Teachers supporting Children with Visual Impairment
  • Collaborative Working with Children with Complex Needs