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 (MA Primary)

Children and Young People (MSc TLT)

Cognitive and Social Development in Education (MA Primary)

Postgraduate teaching

Child and Adolescent Development (MSc Education)

I am also pathway coordinator for the MSc Education (Research)

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

  • 2018 - : Brendan Kwiatkowski. Thesis title: Canadian adolescent males' masculinities and school experiences based on levels of emotional restriction: A mixed methods approach
  • 2019 - : Jill Steel.  Thesis title: Children's emotional wellbeing and reading: Exploring the impact of animal assisted learning on the mood elevation and motivation of reluctant readers in primary schools.

Past PhD students supervised

  • 2013 - 2016: Jennifer Salfen. Thesis title: Extracurricular activities and positive youth development in adolescence. 
  • 2014 - 2017: Matluba Kahn. Thesis title: Environment, Engagement and Education: Investigating the relationship between primary school grounds and children's learning: A case study in Bangladesh (with Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture).
  • 2014 - 2018: Xiaoyi Hu. Thesis title: Foreign language learning, anxiety and motivation among primary school aged children.
  • 2014 - 2018: Thalia Theodoraki. Thesis title: Executive functions and academic attainment among adolescents (with Department of Psychology).

Research summary

My research focuses on children's and adolescents' reading development, with past research examining  the effectiveness of different approaches to reading instruction (e.g., phonics) and the cognitive skills predicting reading success.  I am also interested in understanding the relationship between children's reading motivation, engagement and attainment and how to enhance reading motivation and engagement in the classroom.  

More recently I have become interested in sex differences in education and have taken a critical approach to examine the evidence to support differences.  My research often explores children's gender identity (i.e., the extent to which children identify with traditional masculine and feminine traits) which  challenges the dichotomy inherent within sex differences research and can lead to a more critical and nuanced understanding of sex differences in education.  

Project activity

Past and ongoing research projects primarily involve the study of children's language and literacy development and sex differences in education.  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. 

In 2019, I co-founded LALco: Language and Literacy: Communication, collaboration, co-production (www.lalco.org.uk) with Lynne Duncan at the University of Dundee.  This is a multidisciplinary network of individuals with a shared interest to promote attainment and equity in the language and literacy skills of children and young people.

In 2017, in collaboration with teachers from 22 primary schools in Scotland, I developed readresearch - www.readresearch.education.ed.ac.uk. This project allowed me to work with teachers to translate my research into accessible formats to  inform teaching practices.

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. You can read more about this project on our website: www.growingupareader.education.ed.ac.uk

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 43 publications on Research Explorer