Zayba Ghazali-Mohammed

Research Associate


Zayba obtained her undergraduate degree, MA(hons) Psychology, at the University of Edinburgh in 2011 and went on to obtain an MSc in Developmental Sciences at University of London in 2012.  In 2012 Zayba was awarded ESRC funding to begin a PhD programme of research. Her PhD research examined conceptual development of primary school children in areas of scientific thinking. It was a longitudinal study which aimed to track the developmental trajectories of children’s understanding of various biological concepts in an effort to understand how growth in one conceptual area influenced growth in other areas. She also investigated the influences of other general cognitive and demographic factors in children’s understanding about biological phenomena. Her research has allowed her to comment on the recent curricular changes regarding primary science in England, and contributed towards ongoing debates about the structure and organisation of young children’s knowledge. 

Zayba is interested in the developmental trajectory of children's ideas about science, from early perceptual to explicit understanding, and the influencers of this. She has previously conducted research at the Ontario Science Centre and is currently working with Glasgow Science Centre.



PhD Developmental Psychology (2011)

MSc Developmental Science (2012)

MA(hons) Psychology (2016)

Research summary

Main research interests include cognitive development of young children’s scientific understanding, the role of executive functions and other domain-general capabilities on conceptual progression, naïve theories of learning, non-verbal communication, and how developing language can influence scientific understanding. Also interested in embodied interaction, digital technology and learning, engagement, and early perception. 

Current research interests

Currently, I am working on the Move2Learn project investigating the role of embodied cognition and immersive technologies on science learning within museum contexts. You may have noticed how children, and adults, often move their hands and bodies around when talking about science ideas. Recent research is suggesting that we may do this because the way we think is inseparably linked to our body-based experiences in the world. In other words, our thinking is embodied. Science education researchers and practitioners often face the challenges of designing and evaluating learning experiences for young children whose language skills are still emerging. Hence, building on the evidence that movement is tightly intertwined with thinking, Move2Learn aims to investigate how thought and movement link as embodied learning to engender and accelerate science understanding.

Knowledge exchange

Science Cherades, adult dissemination event:

The Science behind Science Learning public seminar:

STEM for all video:

Affiliated research centres

Project activity

The University of Edinburgh has been awarded one of five Phase 2 UK/US collaborative Science Learning+ projects to work with our UK partners (UCL Knowledge Lab and Glasgow Science Centre) and US partners.

Following a National Science Foundation Phase 1 grant in 2015, this Phase 2 project will be carried out over 36 months and examine how interactive museum exhibits designed to encourage meaningful actions can help young children express, communicate and develop their scientific thinking.

The project is a collaboration between the US, funded by National Science Foundation and led by Judy Brown, Museum of Science, and the UK, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The Co-PIs in the UK are Sara Price, UCL and Sharon MacNab, Glasgow Science Centre.

Current project grants

Wellcome Trust Institutional Partnership Award

Past project grants

ESRC PhD scholarship
ESRC Advanced Quantitative Statistics Award
BPS Developmental Section International Internship grant

Conference details

Ghazali-Mohammed (Aug 2018). How children aged 4-11 learn Science and what this tells us about the National Curriculum. European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI) conceptual change SIG, Austria.  

Ghazali-Mohammed (July 2018). The science behind science learning. Invited talk by Centre for Research in Digital Education Seminar Series. Edinburgh, UK. 

Ghazali-Mohammed (July 2018). Identifying patterns gesture behind everyday science concepts: evidence from science educators. International Society for Gesture Studies, Cape Town.  

Ghazali-Mohammed (June 2018). Embodied science learning for pre-schoolers. International Conference for Learning Sciences, London. 

Ghazali-Mohammed, Z. (2016). Conceptual progression of evolutionary ideas in childhood: A longitudinal study. In Panagiotaki, G. (Chair), Children’s biological understanding – the case of evolution, life, and death. British Psychological Society Developmental Section annual conference, Belfast, UK.  

Ghazali, Z (May, 2015). Invited talk. How are children learning biological concepts? And what can this tell out about the efficacy of the Curriculum? Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada. 

Ghazali, Z. (March 2015). How do cognitive abilities influence the development of scientific concepts in children? International Convention of Psychological Science, Amsterdam, NL. 

Ghazali, Z. (2014). New approaches to assessing the development of scientific understanding in young children. British Psychological Society Developmental Psychology Annual Conference, Amsterdam, NL.