Conny Gollek

Accepting PhD Students


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Personal profile

Area of academic expertise - outline

I am a developmental psychologist and interested in how children learn throughout their preschool years and beyond. I am investigating the influence of metacognition and socio-economic status on language development in general and word learning in specific. I am interested how children acquire new words they have never heard before and which strategies they use to determine meaning. Children have to be able to understand a basic level of perspective-taking to reason from someone else’s point of view. They also need to be able to understand perspective to use multiple labels (e.g., dog-animal) interchangeably in one conversation. Throughout my PhD research I was able to connect this line of research to novel words and show that children can only accept a new label for a familiar object once they understand perspective. Throughout my Postdoc I followed a cohort of children longitudinally from the start of nursery to the transition to primary school, observing their language development and metacognitive skills under the influence of socio-economic status.

As a former early years practitioner, I am very interested in communicating research findings to practitioners and producing research with impact. Together with colleagues at the University of Dundee I developed an observational language assessment for preschool, which utilizes practitioner’s knowledge about children to identify language delay and monitor progress. I closely involved practitioners in the development of the tool in order to produce an assessment which they feel comfortable using on a day-to-day basis in their setting.

Current research activities

Together with a local council in Scotland and colleagues at the University of Dundee, I designed an observation-based language assessment for 3-5 year olds. The assessment offers an alternative to formal testing of young children while enabling practitioners to measure progress and evaluate effectiveness of interventions. The assessment is currently being implemented council wide. Together with my colleagues in Dundee, I am now seeking funding to extend the existing measure to 2 year olds. We are also working on a proposal to develop an electronical version of the assessment for teachers to use on a tablet.

I am also investigating metacognitive development strategies for the early years. Metacognition is a crucial cognitive and social skill developing thought preschool age. Effects of socio-economic status have been studied, as well as a relationship between early metacognitive skills and later educational attainment. Although early identification of metacognitive delays would be highly beneficial and intervention studies aiming at raising metacognitive skills in preschool have delivered promising results, this topic has not been translated well to practice yet. 

Desired research direction

My current focus is on translating psychological research findings to early years practitioners and developing tools to bring the knowledge of these two areas together for the benefit of children growing up today.

I will continue my research into theories of word learning and metacognition, especially investigating the differences in development between monolingual and multilingual children in a multi-cultural society.

Target collaborative organisations

  • National early learning and childcare providers
  • International childcare providers
  • Education and Learning institutions

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities


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