Dr Sarah McGeown

Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology


  • MA (Hons) Psychology, University of Aberdeen, 2002
  • MRes Psychology, University of Aberdeen, 2003
  • PhD Psychology, University of Hull, 2008
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, 2010
  • Higher Education Academy Teaching Fellow, 2011

Responsibilities & affiliations

Membership of Professional Bodies

British Psychological Society and United Kingdom Literacy Association.

Editorial/reviewer activities

  • Associate Editor for the Journal of Research in Reading (2018 - present)
  • Ad hoc reviewer for: Learning and Individual Differences, Child Development, Educational Psychology, Educational Review, Scientific Studies in Reading, European Journal of Psychology of Education, Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Cambridge Journal of Education, Learning and Instruction  and the British Educational Research Journal.

Undergraduate teaching

Education Studies 2 A

Cognitive and Social Development in Education

Postgraduate teaching

Courses taught:

Child and Adolescent Development (MSc Education)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I would be interested in supervising doctoral research students in the areas listed in the research tab.

Current PhD students supervised

  • 2013 - present: Jennifer Salfen. Thesis: Extracurricular activities and PYD in adolescence. 
  • 2013 - present: Matluba Kahn. Thesis: Designing for change: Developing design guidelines for the outdoor environment of primary schools to enhance children's learning and attitudes to school (with Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture)
  • 2014 - present: Xiaoyi Hu. Thesis: Foreign language learning, anxiety and motivation among primary school aged children
  • 2014 - present: Thalia Theodoraki. Thesis: Executive functions and academic attainment among adolescents (with Department of Psychology)

Research summary

My research is focused around three areas:

  • Reading development: I am interested in children's early reading acquisition and development, specifically the effectiveness of different approaches to reading instruction (e.g., phonics) and the cognitive skills predicting reading success.  I am also interested in understanding how to enhance reading motivation and engagement in the classroom.  
  • Sex differences:  My research examining sex differences in education takes a gender identity approach (i.e., examines the extent to which children identify with traditional masculine and feminine traits).   Gender identity  challenges the dichotomy inherent within sex differences research and can lead to a more critical and nuanced understanding of sex differences in education.  To date, this research has focused on sex differences in reading, writing, maths and science.
  • Mental toughness in education: Mental toughness can be considered an umbrella term which encompasses a number of non-cognitive attributes known to be important in education (e.g., motivation, confidence and resilience).  I am interested in understanding the importance of mental toughness among adolescents, by listening to adolescents' perspectives and  examining associations between mental toughness and education outcomes. 

Project activity

Past and ongoing research projects primarily involve the study of children's language and literacy development.  I am interested in participatory research and crossing disciplinary boundaries to work with other academics and professionals (e.g., teachers, external organisations) with shared interests in this area. 

Current project grants

Growing Up A Reader (2018-19) is an interdisciplinary research project (Education, Psychology, English Literature) which aims to understand what it means to be a young reader in the 21st century, through children and adolescents' perspectives.

Past project grants

2018-19: Challenge Investment Fund: Growing Up A Reader
2017-18: Scottish Universities Insight Institute: Conversations about language and literacy: Promoting equity and attainment through engagement.
2017: ESRC KE Placement: Scottish Book Trust and Book Trust
2016: Save the Children/Hackney Learning Trust: Evaluation of an early language app
2016-2017: ESRC Impact: Improving children's reading: Research informing practice

View all 40 publications on Research Explorer