Dr Catherine Darnell

Dr Catherine Darnell

School of Education

Contact details

School of Education
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Catherine Darnell is interested in cognitive psychology and the impact it has on children’s learning. She has worked on a variety of projects investigating cognitive development with a particular focus on metacognition, decision-making, language and reading.

Feedback and office hours

Autumn term: Tuesdays 11.30-1.30pm and Thursdays 2.30-3.30pm

Spring Term: Tuesdays 2.30-4pm and Thursday 2.30-4pm


  • 2016 PhD in Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK
  • 2010 MRes in Psychology Research, University of Birmingham, UK
  • 2009 BSc in Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK


After completing her psychology degree in 2009, Catherine worked as a research assistant on a longitudinal research project on the early predictors of reading difficulties in primary school aged children at Aston University as well as a project at the University of Birmingham investigating problem solving in 5-to-7 year olds. In 2009, Catherine was awarded ESRC funding to complete a Masters in Psychology research followed by a PhD in cognitive development at the University of Birmingham. For her Masters project, Catherine carried out an eye-tracking study with children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder to investigate the use of context in language. Her PhD thesis focussed on the development of metacognition in 4-to-8 year olds, with a particular focus on children’s understanding of their own uncertainty. Whilst completing her PhD, Catherine also worked as a teacher for CIVITAS, teaching English and Maths to 4-to-11 year olds. Following this, Catherine worked as a Research Associate for Optima, a Psychology and Educational consultancy working on a project examining the ‘phonics screening check’, a statutory assessment at key stage 1 in UK primary schools. Catherine then worked as Teaching Fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham as a module leader on ‘Introduction to Developmental Psychology’ and ‘Adolescent Mind and Brain’. Before working as a Lecturer in the School of Education, Catherine worked as a Research Fellow in the Jubilee Centre for Character and virtues investigating decision making in adolescence and the predictors of pro-social behaviour in moral development. Catherine also taught on the MA in Character Education.


Catherine currently teaches on the undergraduate programmes BSc Psychology in Education and BA Education.

Year 1: Introduction to Cognitive Development (Module leader)

Year 2: Child Development: Psychological Approaches (Module leader)


Catherine’s research interests lie in cognitive development and the application into Educational contexts. Catherine is particularly interested in the interplay between metacognition and decision making and how this is displayed in different learning contexts such as reading. Catherine also has an interest in the role of reading in learning and how it can be used in children’s cognitive and moral development.

Other activities

Steering committee member for the “Network for Research in Morality" (NRM)


Darnell, C.A., Gulliford, L., Kristjánsson, K. & Paris, P. (2019). Phronesis and the Knowledge–Action Gap in Moral Psychology and Moral Education: A New Synthesis? Human Development, 62, 101-129.

Darnell, C.A., Solity, J. & Wall, H. (2017). Decoding the Phonics Screening Check. British Educational Research Journal, 43, 505-527.

View all publications in research portal