ELSS Lab Collaborative Research Projects

Members of the ELSS Lab are involved in several international and national collaborative research projects. These projects serve as the basis for much of the Lab's research. The Lab also features unique projects from its doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. 

Funders and community partners include the Academy of Finland, the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB), Concern Worldwide, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), the European Association of Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), the General Teaching Council for England, the Irish Research Council (IRC), the Jacobs Foundation, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), the National Middle Schools Forum, the Nuffield Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, University College Dublin (UCD), and Young Social Innovators.

Children's School Lives

CSL is Ireland's first national cohort study of primary schooling, providing evidence to inform national curricular reforms and support children's wellbeing and learning. Approximately 200 primary schools, 4,000 children, their parents, teachers and school principals are helping the UCD research team to understand children's experiences and development  across seven years. The project is led by Dympna Devine, Jennifer Symonds, and Seaneen Sloan, and is funded by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The CSL team include Janis Farrell, Aisling Davies, Tamsyn Blue, Barbara Moore, and Mags Crean.


On CSL Jennifer and the team are using ORACLE systematic observation to study children's momentary engagement. They are also researching the development of children's motivation to learn, academic self-concept, academic emotions and attitudes towards subjects. 


Evaluation of Social Innovation Education

Young Social Innovators (YSI) promotes social innovation education in post-primary (secondary) schools across Ireland. Each year, YSI gives over 8,000 young people the opportunity to use their creativity to respond to social issues in their schools, communities, and beyond.


Andrea Maynard (Lead Investigator) and Jennifer Symonds are working in collaboration with YSI to explore the impact of social innovation education on student, teacher, and community wellbeing. Research is being conducted through qualitative case studies of schools and a large-scale repeated-measures quantitative study of teachers and students. The research is funded through an Irish Research Council Employment-Based Postgraduate Programme Scholarship in partnership with Young Social Innovators.

Level Up

Level Up is a universal school based programme that aims to help 15 - 18-year-old school students develop their resources for work engagement. The programme covers core career competencies including values, interests, strengths, calling, career goals, self-profiling, job searching, valuing diversity, leadership, civility, teamwork, professional behaviour, listening, critical and creative thinking, and work engagement.


Level Up was designed by Jennifer Symonds (UCD), Benjamin Torsney (Temple University), Carmel O'Sullivan (Trinity College Dublin) and Jos Akkermans (VU Amsterdam), and is the school based version of Career Leap (see this page). Sample workbook

IMMoLIC slides.jpg

Integrated Model of Momentary Learning in Context (IMMoLIC)

IMMoLIC is an Emerging Field Group where researchers will imagine and systematically build a model of how children learn momentarily in classrooms by integrating perspectives from motivation, emotion, conceptual change, and metacognition. The collaboration is funded by the European Association of Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) and the Jacobs Foundation.


Lead Investigator: Jennifer Symonds; Joint Lead Investigator: Ricardo Boheim (Technical University Munich); Co-Investigators: Aisling Davies (UCD), Charlotte Dignath (Goethe University), Chryse Hatzichristou (University of Athens), Ed Baines (University College London), Gertraud Benke (Universität Klagenfurt), José Carlos Núñez Pérez (Universidad de Oviedo), Julia Dietrich (University of Jena), K. Ann Renninger (Swarthmore College), Katariina Salmela-Aro (Helsingfors Universitet), Matthew Somerville (University College London), Natassa Kyriakopoulou (University of Athens), Niamh Oeri (University of Bern), Pedro Rosario (Universidade do Minho), and Sanna Järvelä (Oulun Yliopisto).

Human Learning

Set in the scenic University College Dublin campus, this undergraduate class provides first year students with psychosocial supports to help them have an adaptive transition to college. A different competency is taught each week through lectures and active learning tutorials. The competencies are underpinned by research on achievement motivation, self-regulated learning, learner identity and educational transitions.

Human Learning is managed by Jennifer Symonds, Chris Jepsen, and Sarah Brown (UCD). International partners are Tony Perez (Old Dominion University), Benjamin Torsney (Temple University), and Andero Uusberg (University of Tartu). Together, we are studying the impact of attending Human Learning on students' motivation, momentary engagement, and achievement. The evaluation is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.

Career Leap

Career Leap combines the energies of Dublin businesses, youth services and academic educators in the creation of a holistic programme for supporting hard to reach young people to engage in work, education and/or training. 

Led by Prof. Carmel O'Sullivan at the Trinity College Dublin School of Education, and co-designed by Jennifer Symonds (UCD) and Jos Akkermans (VU Amsterdam), Career Leap has had continued success in supporting young people in challenging situations to identify and actualise their potential. 

Safe Learning Study in Sierra Leone

The Safe Learning Study is a 5-year mixed methods randomized controlled trial of Concern Worldwide's programme to support children's literacy and well-being in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The study is managed by Dympna Devine, Ciaran Sugrue, Seaneen Sloan, and Jennifer Symonds. Postdoctoral Research Fellows are Daniel Capistrano, Elena Samonova, and Aimee Smith. 

On Safe Learning, Jennifer and her colleagues have developed a cross-cultural measure of children's wellbeing based on social evolution theory. They are also researching dynamics between school attendance, motivation to learn, wellbeing and gender. Website link


Helping students to engage more deeply and frequently in schoolwork can improve students' life chances, and social equality. Working with students and teachers in low-income schools, Jennifer Symonds, Benjamin Torsney (Temple University, USA) and Enda Murphy (Cabinteely Community School) designed PROSPER as a six-week (30-session) curricular resource to enhance 12 - 14-year old students' engagement in schoolwork using the motivational properties of adolescent role models and active learning. The intervention is the first of its kind in embedding psychosocial education into English as an academic subject in Irish schools. 

PROSPER is funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the manuals are freely available on this website for teachers and students to use. 


Sample workbook

© 2019 by Jennifer E. Symonds. Home page image courtesy of Kat Jayne. 

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