Jennifer Symonds

Fellowship duration: September 2010- November 2011

Jennifer Symonds is freelance educational consultant and researcher. She is the author of the 2015 Routledge Education book Understanding school transition: what happens to children and how to help them and is writing a second book for Routledge entitled Staying engaged in education: cultivating educational resilience in all students and schools. Together with Anne Marshall from the University of Victoria, Canada, Jennifer is also organising an edited book on international school-to-work transitions in emerging adulthood that has a strong contingent of Pathways’ contributors.

Jennifer’s main research interests regard how emotional engagement in study/work contexts and related psychological wellbeing develop in the first 24 years of life, with a focus on educational and career transitions. Jennifer has published books, book chapters, academic journal articles and reports for funding bodies on those topics. She is experienced in mixed methods research, in participant centred fieldwork, in secondary data analysis of international education and wellbeing data, and in analysing large scale longitudinal data from Finland, the UK and Ireland. Her goals as a researcher and writer are to convey information about development that can be quickly translated into practice for supporting emotional engagement and associated wellbeing in places of work and learning.

Jennifer is currently investigating the work-readiness of disaffected 18-24 year olds in her role as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity College Dublin School of Education. Since completing her PhD (2010) and MPhil (2007) in Educational Research at the University of Cambridge, Jennifer has also supervised doctoral students in cultural and cross-cultural psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, supported and led national projects in adolescent mental health, well-being and identity for the Nuffield and Paul Hamlyn Foundations, researched student engagement as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, and taught English Literature and Language as a qualified school teacher in middle and secondary schools in the United Kingdom.

During her time on Pathways, Jennifer analysed large scale longitudinal data representing different cultural cohorts in Finland and England. Together with her Pathways’ colleagues, Jennifer uncovered that transferring to vocational education or employment at the school-to-work transition in England was associated with becoming mentally healthier (Symonds, Dietrich, Chow & Salmela-Aro, in press for Developmental Psychology), that different trajectories of emotional disengagement with learning in England all led to similar developmental outcomes, and how valuing and commitment to education and work developed from adolescence to young adulthood across different educational and work pathways in Finland (both latter papers with Katariina Salmela-Aro and Ingrid Schoon). Critically, Jennifer’s Pathways’ colleagues continue to provide her with a network of inspiring, like-minded scholars whom she collaborates with on important issues central to positive youth development.

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Book Manuscripts in Preparation

Marshall, A. & Symonds, J. (Eds). Young adult school-to-work transitions. Manuscript and proposal in development.   

Symonds, J. (Expected 2017). Staying engaged in education: how to develop educational resilience in all students and schools. Book commissioned by Routledge Education.


Published Books

Symonds, J. (2015). Understanding school transition: what happens to children and how to help them. London: Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-67663-2

Gray, J., Galton, M., McLaughlin, C., Clarke, B. & Symonds, J. (2011). The supportive school: wellbeing and the young adolescent. Newcastle Upon Tyne. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN: 978-1443832090


Book Chapters

Symonds, J., Hargreaves, J & Long, M. (In press). Children’s musical identities at school transition. In R. MacDonald, D. Hargreaves & D. Miell (Eds.). Oxford handbook of musical identities. London: Oxford University Press.

Symonds, J., Galton, M. & Hargreaves, L. (2014). Emerging gender differences at puberty and school transition: Consistency of findings across era and place. In I. Schoon & J. Eccles (Eds.) Gender differences in aspirations and attainment (pp. 101-122). London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107645196    

Hagell, A., Aldridge, J., Meier, P., Millar, T., Symonds, J., & Donmall, M. (2012). Trends in adolescent substance use and their implications for understanding trends in mental health. In A. Hagell (Ed.), Changing adolescence: social trends and mental health (pp. 27-46). Bristol: The Policy Press. ISBN: 9781447301042

Hagell, A., Peck, S., Zarrett, N., Giménez-Nadal, J. I., & Symonds, J. (2012). Trends in adolescent time use in the United Kingdom. In A. Hagell (Ed.), Changing adolescence: social trends and mental health (pp. 27-46). Bristol: The Policy Press. ISBN: 9781447301042


Journal Articles

Symonds, J., Dietrich, J., Chow, A. & Salmela-Aro, K. (in press). Mental health improves after transition from comprehensive school to vocational education or employment in England: A national cohort study. Developmental Psychology.

Symonds, J. & Hargreaves, L. (2014). Emotional and motivational engagement at school transition: A qualitative stage-environment fit study. Journal of Early Adolescence. OnlineFirst (November 3, 2014), 1-32. doi: 10.1177/0272431614556348

Symonds, J. (2014). The international measurement of school perceptions: school environment, school climate and student attitudes. International Psychology Bulletin, 18(2-3), 72-74. APA Division 52,

Symonds, J. & Galton, M. (2014). Moving to the next school at age 10-14 years: An international review of psychological development at school transition. Review of Education. (First published online 14 February).

Symonds, J., & Hagell, A. (2011). Adolescents and the organization of their school time: A review of changes over recent decades in England. Educational Review, 63(3), 291-312

Symonds, J., & Gorard, S. (2010). Death of mixed methods? Or the rebirth of research as a craft. Evaluation and Research in Education, 23(2), 121-136.

Symonds, J.  (2008). Developmentally appropriate research methods for use with child and adolescent participants. Building Research Capacity, 14(January), 4-7.

Symonds, J. (2008). Educating pupils as active participants. Research in Education, 80(1), 63-74.

Symonds, J. (2007). Year 11 pupils’ education and employment possible selves: the methodological challenges of comparing representational constructs. Educate, 7(1), 18-26.


Project Reports and Research Notes

Symonds, J., Long, M. & Hargreaves, J. (2011). Changing key: adolescents’ views on their musical development across the primary to secondary school transition. London: The Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Deakin Crick, R., Jelf, H., Symonds, J., Ren, K. Patton, A. & Grushka, K. (2010) Learning futures evaluation report. University of Bristol.

Symonds, J. (2010). Are middle schools better for early adolescent development than transition into secondary school? A study of two school environments. National Middle Schools’ Forum.

MacBeath, J., Frost, D., Pedder, D., Frost, R., with Hill, V., Gaiteri, T., Symonds, J., Farrimond, S.& Ranger, J. (2008) The influence and participation of children and young people in their learning (IpiL) project. University of Cambridge.


Journal Articles under Review

Symonds, J., Salmela-Aro, K. & Schoon, I. Developmental trajectories of emotional disengagement with learning at school and their longitudinal associations in England. In resubmission for the British Educational Research Journal.


Journal Articles in Preparation

Symonds, J., Schoon, I. & Salmela-Aro, K. Youths’ school and work engagement in Finland: the development of task-value across two life-course transitions. Journal article in preparation.

Symonds, J. & Polek, E. There’s (dis)engagement everywhere: early adolescents’ person-oriented profiles of engagement with learning and school and their predictors in Ireland. Journal article in preparation.