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Dr Sarah Critten

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr Sarah Critten joined the Open University in 2021 and is a Lecturer in Childhood and Youth Studies. Previously, Sarah held a lectureship at Coventry University (2011-2021) developing and leading modules in Developmental and Educational Psychology for BSc Psychology and MSc Psychology/Applied Psychology and modules in Project planning and ethics in Psychology for MSc Psychology. During her time at Coventry University, Sarah was a Course Leader twice, for PGCert Psychology of Reading Development and for MSc Applied Psychology. Prior to this Sarah was a Post-Doctoral researcher at Oxford Brookes University (2009-2011) on a Leverhulme Trust funded project looking at the spelling and writing abilities of children with Developmental Language Disorder.

Sarah holds a BSc Psychology (First Class) and PhD in Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire and a PGCert Academic practice in Higher Education from Coventry University.

Research interests

Sarah’s research interests lie within the area of children’s language and literacy development. This originated with her PhD entitled ‘Spelling and reading representations in children’ and primarily concerns cognitive processes underlying spelling, reading and writing development. Her published work examines implicit and explicit spelling knowledge, children’s spelling and reading strategies and the relationship between oral and written language. Her work looks at both typical and atypical development, examining language and literacy abilities of children with Developmental Language Disorder and Dyslexia. More recently Sarah has expanded her interests to look at children’s voice in children with Speech, Language and Communication difficulties and experiences of families of children with disabilities.

Sarah is an experienced PhD supervisor and examiner and has a strong commitment to fostering a research community and supporting young researchers.

Teaching interests

Sarah has been teaching in Higher Education since 2004 and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

She is a module team member of the level 2 module Psychology of Childhood and Youth (E219) and the level 1 module An Introduction to Childhood Studies and Child Psychology (E102).

Impact and engagement

Throughout her research career Sarah has worked closely with schools to share the findings of the projects they have been involved in and discuss recommendations for literacy instruction and assessment.

With Professor Julie Dockrell, Professor Vince Connelly and Kirsty Walter, Sarah has developed and held workshops for schools on writing, concerning both theories of writing development and the use of objective writing assessments. The same team also developed and validated the UK Curriculum Based Measure of Writing (UK CBM-W).

Sarah is currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Research in Reading and reviews for the Journal of Educational Psychology, British Journal of Educational Psychology, Scientific Studies in Reading, Reading and Writing, Research in Developmental Disabilities, Dyslexia and Frontiers

External collaborations

External examiner for MA Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia), UCL: Institute of Education, November 2016-November 2021.

Sarah regularly collaborates with researchers from Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Nottingham Trent University, Oxford Brookes University and UCL: Institute of Education.


Handwriting processes when spelling morphologically complex words in children with and without Developmental Language Disorder (2023-05-23)
Critten, Sarah; Connelly, Vincent; Dockrell, Julie E.; Mundy, Ian R. and O’Rourke, Lynsey
Frontiers in Psychology, 14, Article 1112462

Art box deliveries: The experiences of people with dementia and their carers during the Covid 19 lockdown (2022-11)
Armstrong, Christina; Archer, Anji; Critten, Valerie and Critten, Sarah
Dementia, 21(8) (pp. 2499-2516)

A critical review of methods for eliciting voice from children with speech, language and communication needs (2020-10)
Bloom, Ashley; Critten, Sarah; Johnson, Helen and Wood, Clare
Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 20(4) (pp. 308-320)

Evaluating a method for eliciting children's voice about educational support with children with speech, language and communication needs (2020-06)
Bloom, Ashley; Critten, Sarah; Johnson, Helen and Wood, Clare
British Journal of Special Education, 47(2) (pp. 170-207)

A longitudinal investigation of prosodic sensitivity and emergent literacy (2020)
Critten, Sarah; Holliman, Andrew J.; Hughes, David J.; Wood, Clare; Cunnane, Helen; Pillinger, Claire and Deacon, S. Hélène
Reading and Writing, 34(2) (pp. 371-389)

Student and Teacher Perspectives on Spelling (2019)
Daffern, Tessa and Critten, Sarah
Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 42(1) (pp. 40-57)

Examining the independent contribution of prosodic sensitivity to word reading and spelling in early readers (2017)
Holliman, A. J.; Gutiérrez Palma, N; Critten, S.; Wood, C.; Cunnane, H. and Pillinger, C.
Reading and Writing, 30(3) (pp. 509-521)

Young Children's spelling representations and spelling strategies (2016-12)
Critten, Sarah; Sheriston, Lee and Mann, Franceska
Learning and Instruction, 46 (pp. 34-44)

Routes to Reading and Spelling: Testing the Predictions of Dual-Route Theory (2016)
Sheriston, Lee; Critten, Sarah and Jones, Emily
Reading Research Quarterly, 51(4) (pp. 403-417)

Assessing children's writing products: the role of curriculum based measures (2015-08)
Dockrell, Julie E.; Connelly, Vincent; Walter, Kirsty and Critten, Sarah
British Educational Research Journal, 41(4) (pp. 575-595)

Inflectional and derivational morphological spelling abilities of children with Specific Language Impairment (2014-08)
Critten, Sarah; Connelly, Vincent; Dockrell, Julie E. and Walter, Kirsty
Frontiers in Psychology, 5, Article 948

Modeling the Relationship Between Prosodic Sensitivity and Early Literacy (2014)
Holliman, Andrew; Critten, Sarah; Lawrence, Tony; Harrison, Emily; Wood, Clare and Hughes, David
Reading Research Quarterly, 49(4) (pp. 469-482)

Revealing children's implicit spelling representations (2012-06)
Critten, Sarah; Pine, Karen J. and Messer, David J.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31(2) (pp. 198-211)

Predicting the Quality of Composition and Written Language Bursts From Oral Language, Spelling, and Handwriting Skills in Children With and Without Specific Language Impairment (2012)
Connelly, Vincent; Dockrell, Julie E.; Walter, Kirsty and Critten, Sarah
Written Communication, 29(3) (pp. 278-302)

Spelling development in young children: A case of representational redescription? (2007-02)
Critten, Sarah; Pine, Karen and Steffler, Dorothy
Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(1) (pp. 207-220)