Current Projects and Research Focus

Teacher stress: Understanding behavioral and psychophysiological correlates of high-quality teacher-child interactions (A multi-country project)


  • In the UAE: Professor Lydia Barza, Zayed University Abu Dhabi
  • In Finland: Professor Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen, University of Jyväskylä
  • In Kosovo: Dr. Fitim Uka, Qeap Heimerer Institute of Higher Education

Funded By:

  • Zayed University Research Incentive Fund # R15114
  • New York University Abu Dhabi Research Enhancement Fund 2017

The primary goal of the study is to understand role that stress response regulation plays in potentially promoting or inhibiting a teacher’s ability to provide positive teacher-child interactions. More specifically, the project aims to explore whether the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulation relates to the quality of teacher-child interactions through its impact on teachers’ executive functioning. Moreover, it aims to explore similarities and differences in the patterns of associations across four different educational contexts. The second goal of the study is to investigate direct and indirect relations between teacher-child interactions and kindergarten students’ emerging academic outcomes.

For a subsample of teachers from the UAE and Finland, mobile eye-tracking glasses were used to measure teachers’ visual attention during classroom interactions. This part of the project aims to contribute to a new model of understanding the mechanisms underlying teacher professional vision, as barriers or facilitators, to high-quality instruction. The goal is (1) to explore teachers’ visual attention during classroom interactions and to link teachers’ eye gaze to key events in classroom interactions and students’ learning; and (2) to investigate the cultural nature of teachers’ visual attention and identify specific differences and similarities among patterns of visual attention in a sample of teachers from the United Arab Emirates and Finland.

Research Brief —Patterns of Dialogic Teaching (PDF)


Through parents’ eyes: Exploring parents’ eye gaze during parent-child interactions (A cross-cultural comparison)


  • In Germany: Professor Joscha Kärtner, Westfälische Wilhelms-University Münster

Funded By:

  • New York University – University Research Challenge Fund

Exploring parents’ eye gaze can shed light on how parents cognitively process key events in parent-child interactions. Such knowledge is essential for understanding the dynamics of social processes or interactions between a parent and the child. Eye movements are thought to provide an indicator of the focus of attention at any given moment. The project uses advanced mobile eye-tracking technology to measure parents’ eye gaze in real-time while they interact with their child. The goal of the project is to explore parents’ visual attention during three different everyday parenting situations (play, book-reading, receiving a gift) and link parents’ eye gaze to key events in parent-child interactions.

Promoting excellence in secondary science education: Teacher-student interactions as a pathway to improve student performance


  • Dr. Irene Skuballa, New York University Abu Dhabi
  • Professor Lydia Barza, Zayed University Abu Dhabi
  • Professor Fiona Baker, Emirates College for Advanced Education Abu Dhabi

Funded By:

  • Abu Dhabi Education Council ADEC Award for Research Excellence A2RE

The project aims to investigate teachers’ cognitive and metacognitive processes throughout the process of science education in secondary schools in Abu Dhabi to ascertain in how far these processes are moderated or mediated by classroom heterogeneity and level of teachers’ expertise. Building on these findings we aim to conceptualize and pilot a training tailored to teachers’ and students’ needs to foster instructional quality in science education.