ESRC 3-year PhD studentship + AQM award


About meGHAZALI Zayba

I obtained my undergraduate degree, MA(hons) Psychology,  at the University of Edinburgh in 2011. I went on to obtain an MSc in Developmental Sciences at Birkbeck College, University of London in 2012. The networks I built whilst undergoing my Masters degree placed me in a position to identify an area to pursue for PhD research, and work on a proposal to submit to the ESRC. In 2012 I was awarded DTC Bloomsbury funding, with an additional award for using Advanced Quantitative Statistics. Studying full-time, I have been able to gain training on a number of courses for using advanced statistics funded by the ESRC, as well as attend national and international conferences.

My research

My PhD research examines conceptual development of primary school children in areas of scientific thinking. It is a longitudinal study which aims to track the developmental trajectories of children’s understanding of various biological concepts in an effort to understand how growth in one conceptual area influences growth in the others. I also investigate the influences of other general cognitive and demographic factors in children’s understanding about biological phenomena. The work I have undertaken has allowed me to comment on the recent curricular changes regarding primary science in England, and contribute towards ongoing debates about the structure and organisation of young children’s knowledge.

My collaborations

Towards the end of my PhD I was awarded funding from the British Psychological Society Developmental section to travel to Canada and undergo a research internship at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. This visit allowed me to work alongside researchers and other students currently working in areas similar to my own, and collect additional data whilst working at the Ontario Science Centre. I was also able to engage in discussion in the context of conceptual development and science learning, and present my own work to an international audience.

The difference my research makes

The contribution my PhD work has made are both theoretical and practical. On a theoretical level, I have been able to contribute toward discussion about the structure and organisation of children’s early knowledge and on the basis of my research findings, propose a new model to understand conceptual progression across primary school. The development of a novel methodology and research design I employed for my project has also contributed toward a large body of literature that has, until now, neglected certain areas of scientific thinking in young children, certain age groups, and employed flawed methods. I have also been able to contribute towards a lack of research about the influences of general cognitive and demographic factors on children’s early scientific thinking, which contrary to popular assumptions, were found to be only marginally influential. Finally, undertaking a research internship has allowed me to disseminate my novel findings to wider audience and ultimately forge international collaborative links.


Professor Andy Tolmie
Dr Sue Dale Tunnicliffe


Ghazali, Z. (accepted, May 2015). Can we be scientific about science? The Psychologist.

Ghazali, Z. & Tolmie, A. (2014). New approaches to understanding the development of biological   concepts in young children. Educacio Siglo XX1, 32 (2), 97-118

Ghazali, Z. (2014). Taking a scientific approach to life. The Psychologist, 27 (5), 373

External links