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Student Community

A really important aspect of PEDAL's work is the research being undertaken by our PhD students. PEDAL students work at the very cutting-edge of research to answer pressing and dynamic questions on a global scale.

You can find out more about their research here.

Sabilah Eboo Alwani

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Ricardo Sabates, Prof Nidhi Singal

Overview of Research

Sabilah’s multi-method doctoral research focuses on parent support for early learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, explored through the lenses of parent engagement and perceptions. Her work uses a combination of longitudinal, national British cohort data and localised parent groups in London.

Key Interests

Sabilah is interested in the intersection between parent resilience and parent-child interaction in the early years. She also runs a global project on play and post-COVID recovery. Sabilah is an avid reader and singer.

Contact

se384@cam.ac.uk

@sabilahe

Sydney Conroy

Year of study: 2nd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Paul Ramchandani

Overview of Research
Sydney’s research examines different intersections of three topics: child-centred play therapy, trauma, and excluded perspectives. Across all three projects, she is looking to a tell a story through her doctoral research about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s perspectives on their own mental health care, and play therapists’ understanding of trauma in their work.

Key Interests
Play therapy, trauma, child mental health, collective distress, play

Contact
spc61@cam.ac.uk

sydneyconroy.com

Chika Ezeugwu

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Sara Baker
Funding: LEGO-Cambridge Scholarship

Overview of Research

Chika is currently developing an observational tool to assess children’s executive function behaviour in the natural classroom environment in Nigeria.

Key Interests

Executive function, self-regulation, cognitive development, culture

Contact

cre39@cam.ac.uk

@EzeugwuChika1

Dina Fajardo-Tovar

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Sara Baker

Funding: CONACYT (México) and Cambridge Trust

Overview of Research

Dina’s project explores Mexican teachers’ perspectives on using playful learning in their practice. Mainly how playful learning is conceptualised and implemented in Mexican urban and rural preschools, as well as the enablers and barriers to allowing more play for learning and teaching. Additionally, she investigates how early childhood education and playful learning in Mexico occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and after returning to school.

Key Interests
Dina is passionate about education and how it can improve our society by bridging the research and educational practice gap. She intends to keep working with teachers to collaborate in enhancing learning and development. Also, she is interested in learning more about the role of educational technology in playful learning.

Contact
ddf24@cam.ac.uk

@DinaFajardo

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dinafajardo/

Emily J. Goodacre

Year of study: PEDAL Alumni
Supervisor: Profs Jenny Gibson & Paul Ramchandani
Funding: LEGO Foundation & Cambridge Trust

Overview of Research
Emily researches intersubjectivity in children’s social play and early relationships, focusing on father-infant book sharing and children’s play with friends and peers. She interviews fathers about their experiences of book sharing and play with their 6- to 24-month-olds, exploring fathers’ enjoyment of the activities. She also uses observational data from the ChiRPP study to examine 6- to 7-year-olds’ play communication, analysing how children make decisions together about the ongoing play.

Key Interests
Social play, book sharing, communication, intersubjectivity

Contact

ejg69@cam.ac.uk

Kelsey Graber

Year of study: 4th year PhD student

Supervisor: Dr. Christine O’Farrelly & Prof Paul Ramchandani

Funding: LEGO Cambridge Scholarship

Overview of Research

My research looks at the role and value of play in healthcare contexts, such as amidst a global pandemic or during paediatric hospitalisation. My projects incorporate children’s own perspectives and experiences of play, highlighting the inclusion of children’s voices in research about their childhoods and healthcare.

Key Interests

Research with children, paediatric hospitalisation, children’s voices, quality of life, physical and mental paediatric healthcare

Contact

kg421@cam.ac.uk

@kelseygraber

Morgan Healy

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Paul Ramchandani
Funding: Gates Scholar

Overview of Research
Exploring how play-based parent interventions and home visiting programs can promote a range of child outcomes including executive function and self-regulation. Morgan also looks at the ways that we can improve the design, delivery, and conceptualisation of these interventions across contexts.

Key Interests
Parent-child play, executive function, self-regulation, research evaluation

Contact
mrh73@cam.ac.uk

Tilly Kirby

Year of study: 2nd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Paul Ramchandani & Dr Christine O’Farrelly
Funding: Vice Chancellor’s & LEGO Cambridge Scholarship

Overview of Research

Tilly researches the role of play and book sharing in early social emotional development. She is interested in exploring how best to support parents to provide rich, meaningful and engaging interactions that support their relationship with their child and that promote their child’s development in the early years, as well as infant/toddler mental health.

Key Interests

Early years, parent-child play, book sharing, social emotional development, mental health

Contact

nkk30@cam.ac.uk

@tilly_kirby19

Carolyn Mazzei

Year of study: 2nd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Sara Baker and Dr Pablo Torres
Funding: LEGO Cambridge Scholarship

Overview of Research

Carolyn is interested in working with teachers as they explore playful learning and student agency in their classrooms. Her current research examines classroom talk and agency, and how these are related to children’s cognitive development in early primary school.

Key Interests

Classroom dialogue, cognitive development, agency, playful learning

Contact

cam247@cam.ac.uk
@carolynmazzei

 

Stephanie Nowack

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisor: Profs Nidhi Singal & Jenny Gibson
Funding: LEGO Foundation & Cambridge Trust

Overview of Research
Exploring teachers’ perspectives and practices around a pedagogy of play for autistic learners in South African government schools.

Key Interests
Pedagogy of play, teachers, autism, Global South contexts, inclusive education, qualitative research

Contact
skn39@cam.ac.uk
@Steph_Kano

Domnick Okullo

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisors: Prof Sara Baker and Prof Pauline Rose
Funding: LEGO Foundation & Cambridge Trust

Overview of Research

My research focuses on teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of the use of play-based learning in Kenya. It looks at the use of play-based learning among 4 to 5  year old preschool children and the challenges teachers face, as well as how they integrate the national curriculum into their teaching.

Key Interests

Early childhood education and development, early years curriculum and pedagogy, literacy and numeracy development for the early years, comparative education and international development issues.

Contact

doo26@cam.ac.uk

Paulina Pérez-Duarte Mendiola

Year of study: 1st year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Paul Ramchandani
Funding: CONACyT/Cambridge Trust

Overview of Research
Children use play as a coping mechanism and a way to learn of their illness and hospital experiences. Hospital Play Specialists work with hospitalised children to create time and space for ‘play’ opportunities to emerge. Paulina’s doctoral research will use ethnographic research methods, interviews, and video diaries to investigate how children interact with Hospital Play Specialists and what children say about these playful interactions.

Key Interests
Child-Friendly Paediatrics, Medical Anthropology, Play & Health, Children’s Perspectives, Medical Education & Training.

Contact
pp530@cam.ac.uk
@paediatricianwithsign

https://paulinaperezduarte.com/

Emma Pritchard

Year of study: 3rd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Jenny Gibson

Funding: Cambridge Trust and LEGO Foundation

Overview of Research
I am researching autistic perspectives and experiences of play, and professionals’ perspectives on strengths-based autism diagnostic assessment.

Key Interests
Autistic play, Neurodiversity-informed assessment, strengths-based assessment

Contact

ejp81@cam.ac.uk
@EmmaPritchard95

https://linktr.ee/emmapritchard

Yanwen Wu

Year of study: 2nd year PhD student
Supervisor: Prof Paul Ramchandani, Dr Zhen Rao

Overview of Research
An exploration of counterfactual reasoning development in Chinese-speaking preschool children and the relationships between counterfactual reasoning and executive functions.

Key Interests
Counterfactual reasoning, language, executive functions

Contact
yw422@cam.ac.uk

 

Vicky Yiran Zhao

Year of study: PEDAL Alumni
Supervisor: Prof Jenny Gibson
Funding: LEGO Foundation & Cambridge Trust

Overview of Research
Vicky explores the longitudinal impact of play in early years on children’s language, mathematical and mental health development. She particularly focuses on how play could be an affordable, accessible and fun means of support for neurodivergent children and children from low SES backgrounds.

Key Interests
Peer play, playful learning, mental health, quantitative analyses, longitudinal research, education equality, neurodiversity

Contact
yz462@cam.ac.uk

www.vickyyiranzhao.com

@VickyYiranZhao