Ms Kathrin Paal

Ms Kathrin Paal

Research Assistant

Plymouth Institute of Education (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)



PhD candidate and Associate Research Fellow at the Plymouth Institute of Education.


MA Educational Research, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany (2018)

  • Thesis: Partizipation von Kindern im Krippenalltag - Analysen anhand ausgewählter Videosequenzen (Participation of children in crèche everyday life - analyses based on selected video sequences)

BA Educational Science and Psychology, Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany (2016)

  • Thesis: Der Einfluss früher Bildung auf die kognitive Entwicklung von Kindern und die Umsetzung dieser in Kindertageseinrichtungen in Deutschland (The impact of early childhood education on the cognitive development of children and its implementation in daycare centres in Germany)

Professional membership

BERA - The British Educational Research Association

Roles on external bodies

Reviewer for Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning

Reviewer for Early Years: an international research journal



Research interests

My research interest is the contribution of the use of a preschool garden on preschoolers' attitudes and behaviour towards the environment. As a keen gardener and environmentalist, I am interested in how a preschool garden could promote the development of children’s environmentally friendly and sustainable attitudes and behaviour.

Early Childhood Education for Sustainability, (Pre-)school gardening, Participatory research, Quantitative research methods, Qualitative research methods

Other research

Current projects

Early Years Research and Innovation Hub (02/2023 - present) (role: research assistant)

  • aims to extend the reach of research findings on the quality of early childhood education and care, utilising them to inform pedagogical practice, evidence the impact on the professional knowledge and confidence of educators and subsequent child outcomes and support educators in forming research informed curriculums and pedagogy

Devon Wildlife Trust program evaluation (01/2022 - present) (role: principal investigator)

  • Evaluation of DWT's school outreach such as the “Wildlife Champions” sessions. I carry out an Appreciative Inquiry that seeks to identify good practice, design effective development plans, and ensure implementation of the programme. The research aims to understand the successful implementation in schools to help inform steps taken to better support other schools within the MAT and beyond, including factors that were determining for the school to choose this programme, children and teachers' views and most positive experiences they had with the sessions of the programme as well as children and teachers’ nature relatedness.

UPPScale Erasmus+ (01/2021 - present) (role: research assistant)

  • aims to create an innovative, non-hierarchical space for sustainable, collaborative transnational working that responds to the needs and interests of educators and staff in early years settings, schools and universities (
  • funded by Erasmus+

University Practice Partnerships: Sustaining collaboration across learning environments (UPPScale) (01/2021 - present) (role: research assistant)

Previous projects

“Chest Health Through the Lens of a Child with Neurodisability” project (05/2022 - 03/2023) (role: research assistant)

  • aimed to explore child-focused perceptions of exercise-based chest health interventions (more information)
  • principal investigators: Katherine Gulliver / Rachel Knight Lozano
  • funded by Explore Awards and Arts – Health Collaboration Fund
Moor To Sea project evaluation (03/2022 - 06/2022) (role: research assistant and research mentor)
  • Within this project, we carried out an evaluation of the Constructor project that works with pre-, non- and post-verbal young people with learning disabilities. We have adopted elements of an Appreciative Inquiry approach: we have sought to identify what ‘gives life’ to the collective through collaborative exploration of themes and noticing and sharing telling moments (more information).

Evaluation of the "Rebuilding Bridges" project (06/2021 - 01/2022) (role: principal investigator)

  • an intergenerational music intervention that aimed to (re-)connect young children and elderly at care homes in the Torbay area (more information)
  • funded by Arts Council England National Lottery Fund, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Torbay Music Hub and Torbay Early Years Advisory Team

Pigshill Woods project (04/2021 - 07/2021) (role: research assistant)

  • The project aimed to build on the anecdotal evidence that has accrued during the national lockdown about the beneficial effects of the woodland. The findings provide detailed accounts of benefits for a wide range of woodland users/volunteers who have diverse needs and different backgrounds. (more information)
Evaluation of the German national programme "Sprach-Kitas: Weil Sprache der Schlüssel zur Welt ist" (10/2018 - 02/2019) (role: research assistant)

  • The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in Germany has been promoting language education as part of quality development in child day care since 2016. The federal programme was primarily aimed at day-care centres attended by an above-average proportion of children with language needs.
  • The evaluation examined the implementation and impact of the programme at the levels of counselling, institutions, professionals and families. It was an empirical, longitudinal study with quantitative and qualitative elements. 
  • principal investigator: Professor Yvonne Anders, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  • funded by Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Germany and Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

"Posture and Locomotion" (10/2016 - 06/2018) (role: research assistant)

  • The project explored the action understanding and movement planning of 11–16-month-old-infants while crawling or walking down slopes and steps up to 90cm
  • principal investigator: Whitney G. Cole, PhD, New York University, USA, and Professor Ulman Lindenberger, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
  • funded by Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
"Adaption to major life events" (07/2015 - 10/2015 and 02/2016 - 03/2016) (role: research assistant)

  • The research project intended to investigate the significance of critical life events for longer-term development. The focus is on the idea that short-term stress regulation processes in everyday life contribute significantly to whether a confrontation with a life event has long-term positive or negative consequences.
  • principal investigator: Dr. Annette Brose, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  • Blanke, E. S., Riediger, M., & Brose, A. (2018). Pathways to happiness are multidirectional: Associations between state mindfulness and everyday affective experience. Emotion, 18(2), 202-211.



Internet Publications

Paal, K. (2022). Case study: Exploring pre-schoolers’ attitudes and behaviour towards the environment. In: Boyd, D. et al. (2022). Sustainability Matters in Early Childhood. Available at:

blog post "Gardening with children: exploring preschoolers' attitudes and behaviour towards the environment and the use of a preschool garden", BECERA Conference 2022 [link]


Paal, K. & Peach, L. (2022). Rebuilding Bridges – Evaluation report. []

Georgeson, J., Gulliver, K., Paal, K. & Passy, R. (2021). Woodland Management Training in Pigshill Woods, Phase 1. Recovering the Positive Momentum. []



Conferences organised

Head of event management, FoAHB Doctoral Conference 2021, University of Plymouth (3rd/4th June 2021)

Other academic activities

Conference presentation

  • "Gardening with children: ​exploring preschoolers’ attitudes and behaviour towards the environment and the use of a preschool garden", IOERC 9 Conference 2022, online (18th – 22nd July 2022)​
  • "Gardening with children: exploring preschoolers' attitudes and behaviour towards the environment and the use of a preschool garden", BECERA Conference 2022, online (22nd/23rd February 2022)
  • "Preschoolers' awareness of what is good or healthy for the planet and how we can help the earth", Symposium "Exploring young children's views through the mosaic approach - examples from research", EECERA Conference 2021, online (6th September 2021)
  • "Gardening with children: how a preschool garden can encourage preschoolers’ pro-environmental behaviour", Sustainable Earth Conference 2021, online (24th/25th June 2021) [Video]
Poster presentation

  • " What is good for our planet? - Exploring preschoolers’ attitudes and behaviour towards the environment through the use of participatory research methods", EECERA Conference 2022, Glasgow, UK (23rd - 26th August 2022)
  • "Gardening with children: how a preschool garden can encourage preschoolers’ pro-environmental behaviour", EECERA Conference 2021, online (8th September 2021)

Conference Chairing

  • Chair of Symposium "The development of educational values and beliefs in teaching", EECERA Conference 2021 (6th - 10th September 2021)
  • Chair of various sessions, FoAHB Doctoral Conference 2021, University of Plymouth (3rd/4th June 2021)