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David Whitebread


Principal Research Associate

E-mail Address


01223 767564



Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

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David Whitebread is a developmental cognitive psychologist and early years specialist. Before joining the Faculty he taught in Primary schools, mainly in Leicestershire, for 12 years. His research interests are concerned with children's psychological development and implications for early years and primary education. A particular focus has been the development of young children's metacognition and self-regulation in relation to a nember of areas of dvelopment. These have included children's problem solving and reasoning, mathematical strategies and road safety skills. Other interests include children learning through play, quality in early cvhildhood education, evolutionary psychology and the the application of cognitive neuroscience to education. His current research focus is concerned with the early development of play and playfulness in young children, and the role of language and self-regulation and in supporting this. development.

Academic Area/Links

Psychology; early development; early years education

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Research Topics

  • Development of cognitive and emotional self-regulation in young children
  • Play, learning and development
  • Quality in early childhood education

Current Research Projects

PEDAL (Play in Education , Learning and Development) research centre; director and leader of research strand developing a longitudinal study on the development of playfulness in children from birth

PLaNS (Play, Learning and Narrative Skills): a project funded by the LEGO Foundation investigating the impact of an intervention using playful experiences with Lego to support the development of children's metacognitve abilities, and their narrative and writing skills.

Prospective PhD Applications

David is preparing for retirement and so is unfortunately not able to take on any further PhD students.

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Course Involvement

Postgraduate Teaching
  • PhD supervisor

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Selected Publications

Whitebread, D. (2015). Childhood in crisis: the loss of play. Cambridge Primary Review Trust blog, available at:

Whitebread, D., Kuvalja, M. & O’Connor, A. (2015). Quality in Early Childhood Education – an International Review and Guide for Policy Makers. Report for the World Innovation Summit for Education. Dohar: WISE.

Zachariou, A. & Whitebread, D. (2015). Musical play and self-regulation: does musical play allow for the emergence of self-regulatory behaviours? International Journal of Play, 4(2), 116-135.

Bryce, D., Whitebread, D. & Szucs, D. (2015). The relationships among executive functions, metacognitive skills and educational achievement in 5 and 7 year-old children, Metacognition & Learning, 10(2), 181-198.

Vuillier, L., Whitebread, D., & Szucs, D. (2015). ERP evidence of cognitive strategy change in motivational conditions with varying level of difficulty. Neuropsychologia, 70, 126-133.

Whitebread, D. & Coltman, P. (Eds.) (2015). Teaching and Learning in the Early Years, 4th Ed., Routledge.

Whitebread, D. Jameson, H. & Basilio, M. (2015). Play beyond the Foundation Stage: play, self-regulation and narrative skills. In J. Moyles (Ed.) The Excellence of Play, 4th Ed. (pp. 84-93). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Whitebread, D., Pino-Pasternak, D. & Coltman, P. (2015). Making Learning Visible: the role of language in the development of metacognition and self-regulation in young children. In S. Robson & S. Quinn (Eds.). The Routledge International Handbook of Young Children's Thinking and Understanding (pp. 199-214). London: Routledge.

Whitebread, D. (2014). The importance of self-regulation for learning from birth. In H. Moylett (Ed.). Characteristics of Effective Learning: helping young children become learners for life (pp. 15-35). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Whitebread, D. & Bingham, S. (2014). School readiness, starting age, cohorts and transitions in the early years. In J. Moyles, J. Payler & J. Georgeson (Eds.). Early Years Foundations: Critical Issues, 2nd Ed. (pp. 179-190). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Whitebread, D. (2014). The Power of Physical Play (DVD & Notes). Siren Films: Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Sangster-Jokic, C. & Whitebread, D. (2014). Examining Change in Metacognitive Knowledge and Metacognitive Control During Motor Learning: What Can be Learned by Combining Methodological Approaches? Psychological Topics, 23(1), 53-76.

Kuvalja, M., Verma, M. & Whitebread, D. (2014). Patterns of co-occurring non-verbal behaviour and self-directed speech: A comparison of three methodological approaches. Metacognition & Learning: Special Issue: Understanding the Sequential and Temporal Characteristics of Self-regulated Learning, 9, 2, 87-111.

Whitebread, D. & Sinclair-Harding, L. (2014). Neuroscience and the infant brain. Nursery World, 20 October – 2 November, 21-24.

Pino-Pasternak, D., Basilio, M. & Whitebread, D. (2014). Interventions and classroom contexts that promote self-regulated learning: Two intervention studies in United Kingdom primary classrooms. Psykhe, 23(2), 1-13.I

Whitebread, D. & Pino Pasternak, D. (2013) Video analysis of self-regulated learning in social and naturalistic contexts: The case of preschool and primary school children. In S. Volet & M. Vaurus (Eds). Interpersonal Regulation of Learning and Motivation: Methodological Advances (pp. 14-44). New York: Springer.

Sangster-Jokic, C., Polatajko, H. & Whitebread, D. (2013). Self-regulation as a mediator in motor learning: The effect of the Cognitive Orientation to Occupational Performance approach on children with DCD. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 29, 103-126.

Whitebread, D. & Basilio, M. (2013). Play, culture and creativity. In D. Gauntlett & B. Stjerne-Thomsen (Eds.) Cultures of Creativity. Billund, Denmark: The LEGO Foundation.

Whitebread, D., Mercer, N., Howe, C. & Tolmie, A. (Eds.) (2013). Self-regulation and dialogue in primary classrooms. British Journal of Educational Psychology Monograph Series II: Psychological Aspects of Education – Current Trends, No. 10. Leicester: BPS.

Whitebread, D. (2013) Self-regulation in young children: its characteristics and the role of communication and language in its early development. In D. Whitebread, N. Mercer, C. Howe & A. Tolmie (Eds.). Self-regulation and dialogue in primary classrooms. British Journal of Educational Psychology Monograph Series II: Psychological Aspects of Education – Current Trends, No. 10. (pp. 25-44). Leicester: BPS.

Coltman, P., Warwick, J., Wilmott, J., Pino Pasternak, D. & Whitebread, D. (2013) Teachers co-constructing pedagogical practices to support children’s exploratory talk and self-regulation: the Children Articulating Thinking (ChAT) project. In D. Whitebread, N. Mercer, C. Howe & A. Tolmie (Eds.). Self-regulation and dialogue in primary classrooms. British Journal of Educational Psychology Monograph Series II: Psychological Aspects of Education – Current Trends, No. 10. (pp. 127-146). Leicester: BPS.

Whitebread, D. (2013). Too much, too young. New Scientist, No. 2943, 16 November, 28-29.

Bryce, D. & Whitebread, D. (2012) The development of metacognitive skills: evidence from observational analysis of young children’s behaviour during problem-solving. Metacognition and Learning, 7 (3), 197-217.

Whitebread, D. & O’Sullivan, L. (2012). Preschool children’s social pretend play: supporting the development of metacommunication, metacognition and self-regulation. International Journal of Play 1(2),

Grau, V. & Whitebread, D. (2012). Self and social regulation of learning during collaborative activities in the classroom: The interplay of individual and group cognition. Learning and Instruction, 22(6), 401-12.

Whitebread, D. & Grau Cardenas, V. (2012) Self-regulated learning and conceptual development in young children: the development of biological understanding. In A. Zohar & Y.J. Dori (eds). Metacognition in Science Education: Trends in current research (pp 101-132). New York: Springer.

Whitebread, D. (2012). Developmental Psychology and Early Childhood Education. London: Sage.

Whitebread, D., Basilio, M., Kuvalja, M. & Verma, M. (2012). The importance of play: a report on the value of children’s play with a series of policy recommendations. Brussels, Belgium: Toys Industries for Europe.

Whitebread, D. & Basilio, M. (2012) The emergence and early development of self-regulation in young children. Profesorado: Journal of Curriculum and Teacher Education, Monograph issue: Learn to learn. Teaching and evaluation of self-regulated learning, 16(1),15-34.

Sangster Jokic, C. & Whitebread, D. (2011) The role of self-regulatory and metacognitive competence in the motor performance difficulties of children with developmental coordination disorder: A theoretical and empirical review. Educational Psychology Review, 23, 75-98

Bryce, D., Szűcs, D., Soltész, F. & Whitebread, D. (2011). The development of inhibitory control: An averaged and single-trial Lateralized Readiness Potential study, NeuroImage, Special issue: Educational Neuroscience, 57 (3), 671 - 685.

Whitebread, D. & Coltman, P. (2011) Developing young children as self-regulated learners. In Moyles, J., Georgeson, J. & Payler, J. (Eds) Beginning Teaching: Beginning Learning: In Early Years and Primary Education. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Whitebread, D. & Bingham, S. (2011). School readiness: a critical review of perspectives and evidence. TACTYC Occasional Paper No. 2: TACTYC.

Gauntlett, D., Ackermann, E., Whitebread, D., Wolbers, T., Wekstrom, C. & Thomsen, B.S. (2011) The Future of Learning. Billund, Denmark: The LEGO Group.

Pino Pasternak, D. & Whitebread, D. (2010) The role of parenting in children's self-regulated learning. Educational Research Review, 5, 220-242.

Gauntlett, D., Ackermann, E., Whitebread, D., Wolbers, T. & Wekstrom, C. (2010) The Future of Play. Billund, Denmark: The LEGO Group.

Whitebread, D. & Coltman, P. (2010) Aspects of pedagogy supporting metacognition and mathematical learning in young children; evidence from an observational study, ZDM: The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 42 (2), 163-178

Whitebread, D. (2010) Play, Metacognition & Self-Regulation. In P. Broadhead, J. Howard & E. Wood (eds) Play and Learning in Early Years Settings: from research to practice. London: Sage.

Whitebread, D., Almeqdad, Q., Bryce, D., Demetriou, D., Grau, V. & Sangster, C. (2010) Metacognition in young children: current methodological and theoretical developments. In A. Efklides & P. Misailidi (eds) Trends and Prospects in Metacognition Research. New York: Springer.

Whitebread, D. & Pino Pasternak, D. (2010) Metacognition, Self-Regulation & Meta-Knowing. In Littleton, K., Wood, C. & Kleine Staarman, J. (eds) International Handbook of Psychology in Education. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Whitebread, D., Coltman, P., Pino Pasternak, D., Sangster, C., Grau, V., Bingham, S., Almeqdad, Q. & Demetriou, D. (2009) The development of two observational tools for assessing metacognition and self-regulated learning in young children, Metacognition and Learning, 4(1), 63-85

Whitebread, D., Coltman, P., Jameson, H. & Lander, R. (2009) Play, cognition and self-regulation: what exactly are children learning when they learn through play? Educational and Child Psychology, 26, 2, 40-52

Szücs D, Soltész F , Bryce, D. & Whitebread, D. (2009) Real-time tracking of motor response activation and response competition in a Stroop task in young children: A lateralized readiness potential study, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 11, 2195-2206

Bingham, S. and Whitebread, D. (2008) Teachers supporting children's self-regulation in conflict situations within an early years setting. In Papatheodorou T. and Moyles J. (eds) Learning Together in the Early Years: Exploring Relational Pedagogy. London: Routledge. 

Whitebread, D., Bingham, S., Grau, V., Pino Pasternak, D. & Sangster, C. (2007) Development of Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning in Young Children: the role of collaborative and peer-assisted learning, Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 3, 433-55

Whitebread, D. & Coltman, P. (2007) 'Developing Young Children as Self-Regulating Learners'. In J. Moyles (ed) Beginning Teaching: Beginning Learning in Primary Education, 3rd Ed., Open University Press

Whitebread, D. (2006) 'Creativity, problem-solving and playful uses of technology: games and simulations in the early years classroom'. In M. Hayes, and D. Whitebread (ed) ICT in the Early Years, Open University Press

Whitebread, D. & Jameson, H. (2005) 'Play, Storytelling and Creative Writing'. In Moyles, J. (ed) The Excellence of Play, 2nd Ed, Open University Press

Whitebread, D., Anderson, H., Coltman, P., Page, C. , Pino Pasternak, D. & Mehta, S. (2005) 'Developing Independent Learning in the Early Years', Education 3-13, 33, 40-50

Whitebread, D. & Neilson, K. (2000) 'The contribution of visual search strategies to the development of pedestrian skills by 4-11 year old children', British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 4, 539-57

Hendy, L. & Whitebread D. (2000) 'Interpretations of Independent Learning in the Early Years', International Journal of Early Years Education, 8, 3, 243-52

Whitebread, D. (ed) (2000) The Psychology of Teaching and Learning in the Primary School, London: RoutledgeFalmer

Whitebread, D. (1999) 'Interactions between children's metacognitive processes, working memory, choice of strategies and performance during problem-solving', European Journal of Psychology of Education, 14, 4, 489-507

Whitebread, D. (1996) 'The Development of Children's Strategies on an Inductive Reasoning Task', British J. of Educational Psychology, 66, 1, 1-21

In Press

Whitebread, D., Basilio, M., O’Sullivan, L., & Zachariou, A. (in press). The importance of play, oral language and self-regulation in children’s development and learning; implications for quality in early childhood education. Early Child Development and Care, Special Issue: Quality in Early Childhood Education,

Whitebread, D. (in press). Quality in Early Childhood Education: the contribution of Developmental Psychology. In M. Fleer & B. van Oers (Eds.) International Handbook on Early Childhood Education, Springer.

Sinclaire-Harding, L. & Whitebread, D. (in press). Neuroscience and Early Childhood Education. In M. Fleer & B. van Oers (Eds.) International Handbook on Early Childhood Education, Springer.

Whitebread, D. & Bingham, S. (in press). School readiness in Europe: issues and evidence. In M. Fleer & B. van Oers (Eds.) International Handbook on Early Childhood Education, Springer.