• Education
  • Research Focus


  • Adolescence
  • Adolescent Brain Development
  • Brain Development
  • Causal Reasoning
  • Child Development
  • Cognition
  • Cognititve Control
  • Cognitive Development
  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Cognitive Function
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Testing
  • Computational Modelling
  • Conceptual Knowledge
  • Connectionist Modelling
  • Data Science Methods
  • Early Child Development
  • Education
  • Education & Learning
  • Executive Function
  • Inhibition
  • Inhibitory Control
  • Interdisciplinary Research
  • Interventions
  • Latent Variable Methods
  • Learning
  • Learning & Memory
  • Learning/Cognition
  • Metacognition
  • Online Data
  • Open Data
  • Poverty
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Problem Solving
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Reading
  • Reasoning Skills
  • Science & Maths Education
  • Scientific Reasoning
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Statistical Learning
  • Statistical Learning Theory
  • Stop-Signal Task
  • Structural Equation Mdoelling
  • Task Switching
  • Task Set Switching
  • Working Memory
  • Equipment & Techniques

  • Behavioural analysis
  • Computational modelling
  • Cross-sectional and cohort studies
  • Randomised control trials
  • Statistical analysis
  • Science Culture

  • Open Access
  • Policy Engagement
  • Public Engagement
  • Public Outreach
  • Reproducibility in Science
  • Teaching
  • Widening Participation
  • Women in Neuroscience
  • Back

    Professor Michelle Ellefson

    University Position
    Professor Michelle Ellefson is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.


    Michelle Ellefson is a Professor of Cognitive Science in the Faculty of Education. Her work integrates cognition, neuroscience, child development, and education into a multi-disciplinary research programme aimed at improving maths and science education. Using an iterative process, she pairs laboratory-based research with classroom learning to better understand mechanisms responsible for cognitive development and improve educational practice. She studies the role of executive functions in school achievement, she investigates the role of causal reasoning for learning scientific phenomena, and she applies specific cognitive principles to classroom learning (e.g., simplicity and desirable difficulties). Initially trained in developmental cognitive neuroscience, her inter-disciplinary team of students and collaborators includes developmental scientists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, educators, chemists, biologists, and physicists.

    Key Publications

    Is replication possible without fidelity?

    Journal: Psychol Methods
    E-pub date: 1 Dec 2023
    Authors: MR Ellefson, DM Oppenheimer

    How Multidimensional is Computational Thinking Competency? A Bi-Factor Model of the Computational Thinking Challenge

    Journal: Journal of Educational Computing Research
    E-pub date: 1 Apr 2023
    Authors: RPY Lai, MR Ellefson

    Executive function measurement in urban schools: Exploring links between performance-based metrics and teacher ratings.

    Journal: Dev Sci
    E-pub date: 1 Nov 2022
    Authors: AK Zonneveld, Z Serpell, T Parr, MR Ellefson

    The Zoo Task: A Novel Metacognitive Problem-Solving Task Developed with a Sample of African American Children from Schools in High Poverty Communities

    Journal: Psychol Assess
    E-pub date: 31 Aug 2021
    Authors: JN Patel, A Aldercotte, M Tsapali, Z Serpell, T Parr, MR Ellefson

    An East-West contrast in executive function: Measurement invariance of computerized tasks in school-aged children and adolescents.

    Journal: J Exp Child Psychol
    E-pub date: 1 Nov 2020
    Authors: C Xu, MR Ellefson, FF-Y Ng, Q Wang, C Hughes


    Study protocol: How does cognitive flexibility relate to other executive functions and learning in healthy young adults?

    Journal: PLoS One
    E-pub date: 1 Aug 2023
    Authors: K Tong, YN Chan, X Cheng, B Cheon, M Ellefson, R Fauziana, S Feng, N Fischer, B Gulyás, N Hoo, D Hung, K Kalaivanan, C Langley, KM Lee, LL Lee, T Lee, I Melani, N Melia, JY Pei, L Raghani, YL Sam, P Seow, J Suckling, YF Tan, CL Teo, R Uchiyama, HS Yap, G Christopoulos, H Hendriks, A Chen, T Robbins, B Sahakian, Z Kourtzi, V Leong, CLIC Phase 1 Consortium

    Executive functions and play.

    Journal: Trends Neurosci Educ
    E-pub date: 1 Mar 2023
    Authors: J Eberhart, TM Paes, MR Ellefson, S Marcovitch

    Supporting Conceptual Change in Chemistry through Design-Based Learning

    E-pub date: 11 Feb 2021
    Authors: XS Apedoe, MR Ellefson, CD Schunn

    Studying Cognitive Development in School-Aged Children

    E-pub date: 30 Apr 2020
    Authors: T Paes, M Tsapali, M Ellefson

    Lessons for Successful Cognitive Developmental Science in Educational Settings: The Case of Executive Functions

    Journal: Journal of Cognition and Development
    E-pub date: 15 Mar 2019
    Authors: MR Ellefson, ST Baker, JL Gibson

    Under What Conditions Can Recursion Be Learned? Effects of Starting Small in Artificial Grammar Learning of Center-Embedded Structure.

    Journal: Cogn Sci
    E-pub date: 1 Nov 2018
    Authors: FH Poletiek, CM Conway, MR Ellefson, J Lai, BR Bocanegra, MH Christiansen

    Starting from the end: What to do when restricted data is released

    Journal: Data Science Journal
    E-pub date: 23 Mar 2017
    Authors: M Teperek, R Morgan, M Ellefson, D Kingsley

    Differences in the weighting and choice of evidence for plausible versus implausible causes.

    Journal: J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn
    E-pub date: 1 May 2014
    Authors: KM Goedert, MR Ellefson, B Rehder

    Learning Together While Designing: Does Group Size Make a Difference?

    E-pub date: 1 Feb 2012
    Authors: XS Apedoe, MR Ellefson, CD Schunn

    Simplifying reading: applying the simplicity principle to reading.

    Journal: Cogn Sci
    E-pub date: 1 Aug 2011
    Authors: JI Vousden, MR Ellefson, J Solity, N Chater

    Learning to label letters by sounds or names: a comparison of England and the United States.

    Journal: J Exp Child Psychol
    E-pub date: 1 Mar 2009
    Authors: MR Ellefson, R Treiman, B Kessler

    Bringing Engineering Design into High School Science Classrooms: The Heating/Cooling Unit

    E-pub date: 1 Oct 2008
    Authors: XS Apedoe, B Reynolds, MR Ellefson, CD Schunn

    Design-based learning for biology: Genetic engineering experience improves understanding of gene expression.

    Journal: Biochem Mol Biol Educ
    E-pub date: 1 Jul 2008
    Authors: MR Ellefson, RA Brinker, VJ Vernacchio, CD Schunn

    A theory of variability discrimination: finding differences.

    Journal: Psychon Bull Rev
    E-pub date: 1 Oct 2007
    Authors: ME Young, EA Wasserman, MR Ellefson

    Asymmetrical switch costs in children

    E-pub date: 1 Apr 2006
    Authors: MR Ellefson, LR Shapiro, N Chater

    Toward a theory of variability discrimination: finding differences.

    Journal: Behav Processes
    E-pub date: 28 Apr 2003
    Authors: ME Young, MR Ellefson, EA Wasserman

    Language Development during Infancy and Early Childhood

    E-pub date: 1 Aug 2001
    Authors: DL Molfese, DB Narter, AJ Van Matre, MR Ellefson, A Modglin