PhD Position in Psychology

Catholic University of Leuven School Psychology and Development in Context

The research unit School Psychology and Development in Context at KU Leuven, Belgium, studies developmental processes and their determinants from early childhood to late adulthood, mainly through longitudinal research. Guided by bio-ecological models of development, the focus is on the interplay between child, family, and school factors in the prediction of child and adolescent development. Contextual factors considered primarily refer to proximal influences, including interpersonal relationships with parents, peers, and teachers (see Website unit). This PhD-project is embedded within the C1-project ‘Nurturing cognitive talent: Understanding the role of classroom social experiences in high-ability students’ academic engagement’, funded by the KU Leuven Research Fund. The PhD will be supervised by prof. Karine Verschueren and prof. Peter Kuppens (MICAS, KU Leuven, co-supervisor).


High-ability students have been found to show lower levels of learning goal orientation and intrinsic motivation for learning (e.g., Lavrijsen, Preckel, Verachtert, Vansteenkiste, & Verschueren, 2020; Ramos, De Fraine, & Verschueren, 2021). This is surprising, given that their higher academic skills are assumed to be conducive to more favorable motivational and educational outcomes.

This project aims to shed light on how classroom social and learning experiences (i.e., peer norms, teacher-student interactions, teacher emotions, and cognitively challenging learning tasks) shape high-ability students’ academic motivation and engagement. Integrating giftedness models with general expectancy/control-value models, effects on students’ value and competence beliefs and academic emotions (i.e., boredom) will be investigated. This project combines data for the large-scale longitudinal Talent study in secondary school (N = 3,409 students in 166 classrooms in 27 schools), with an experience sampling method (ESM) study in real-life classrooms. 

Social and motivational processes among students with different cognitive ability levels will be compared. The PhD-student will lead the data-collection in the ESM-study. About 30 Grade 11 classes from the Talent study will be selected to participate. Classroom engagement will be assessed in situ using mobile phones and will be related to situational variations in the social classroom environment (i.e., perceived teacher support/conflict, teacher engagement, perceived peer engagement) and learning task characteristics (i.e., degree of cognitive challenge).


  • At the starting date (September or October 1, 2021), you have a master degree in psychology or educational sciences and you graduated with excellent study results.
  • You have strong academic writing skills. 
  • You have excellent skills in statistical analyses and/or willingness to improve these skills to conduct longitudinal and multilevel analyses.
  • You can work independently, accurately, and systematically. You have a collegial, respectful, and collaborative attitude.
  • You are a team player with excellent interpersonal and communication skills both in Dutch and English (a C1 proficiency level for both is needed).
  • You are interested in studying youth’s development in the school context and the role of social classroom relationships.


  • We offer a full-time PhD position of 1 year, renewable for an additional 3 years (based on a successful intermediate evaluation at KU Leuven after the first year). In total, the PhD-position is for a period of 4 years.
  • You will be able to work in a supportive and stimulating research environment at an internationally renowned university, with many opportunities for learning and development.
  • You will have the opportunity to collaborate with other PhD students and to learn from the expertise of other researchers both within the research unit and within in the inter-university TALENT research team.
  • You will be provided with ample opportunities to share ideas with educational practice and to contribute to improving the evidence base of education and care for cognitively talented youth.
  • Being part of the doctoral school at our faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at KU Leuven, you will be given the opportunity to follow various training,courses, and workshops during your PhD-trajectory.
  • The starting date of the position is scheduled for September 1 2021, but October 12021 is also possible. 


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Karine Verschueren, mail:; tel. +32-16-32 61 06.

Job interviews will be scheduled on Thursday May 20.

You can apply for this job no later than May 12 via the online application tool

When applying, please provide a cover letter, CV, transcripts of your grades, and contact details of one or two reference persons.

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at

Solliciteren voor deze vacature kan tot en met 12/05/2021 via onze
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: May 12, 2021
  • Tags: Psychologie