PhD position: Optimizing the interplay between early reading skills and motivation

PhD position: Optimizing the interplay between early reading skills and motivation

Published Deadline Location
13 May 3 Jun Maastricht

Job description

Are you interested in working within a dynamic team to design behavioral measures to predict and prevent reading problems in children? Join the NRO-funded project LeesKans as a PhD student.

Job Description
Children’s reading proficiency is closely related to their self-beliefs, such as their mindset, and socio-emotional well-being. Current practices for early assessment of (pre)reading skills, e.g., to predict reading problems, are known to be biased by children’s socioeconomic status (SES) and (multi)lingual background. Thereby they might negatively affect reading development and self-beliefs in children from lower SES backgrounds. In this PhD project you will design a new digital dynamic assessment (DA) tool to differentiate kindergartners based on their potential for learning to read rather than their current knowledge, with the aim to make it less biased. DA uses interactive tasks to understand how children learn. In a 3-year longitudinal study with 5-8-year-old children, you will test the effectiveness of the DA tool and characterize dynamic developmental changes in both reading and socio-emotional skills.

In a parallel PhD project at VU University, qualitative and quantitative data will be obtained from and with teachers, parents and children to understand how to optimally implement DA practices without contributing to stigma and fixed-mindset beliefs about potential. Together, the outcome of both PhD projects will enable teachers in providing improved reading education tailored to the diverse cognitive-motivational needs of individual children. The two PhD projects are part of a larger collaborative project funded by the NRO, with consortium partners at UM (Milene Bonte), VU University (Nienke van Atteveldt), RID dyslexia institutes (Jurgen Tijms), UvA (Eddie Brummelman), IPABO (Inouk Boerma), Erasmus MC (Hanneke Scholten). Both PhD students will closely work together with this dedicated team of researchers, game designers (game design studio Game Tailors), teachers and children across different regions of the Netherlands. The PhD project at UM will be based in the MBIC Brain and Language group at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. Your daily supervisor will be Milene Bonte (UM), in close collaboration with Jurgen Tijms (UvA, RID dyslexia institutes) and Nienke van Atteveldt (VU).

As PhD student:
  • You will actively participate in designing a new dynamic assessment (DA) tool for early detection of reading problems;
  • You will collect, analyze and interpret longitudinal data of 5-8-year-old children’s socio-emotional (self-beliefs, motivation) and reading skills;
  • You will closely collaborate with an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers, professionals in education and dyslexia healthcare, and game designers;
  • You will write scientific papers and present your findings to scientific and general audiences;
  • Based on your scientific papers you will write a PhD thesis;
  • You will be involved in the organization of a symposium for researchers/professionals, and a symposium/experience days for children.

Master or research master (MSc) degree in developmental psychology or a related field, such as experimental/cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, educational science, neuropsychology.

We are looking for a talented candidate with a genuine interest in understanding individual differences in reading development and improving equal chances in education. Dutch understanding/speaking skills are a strong advantage. You have a strong motivation to conduct empirical research with children within a highly interdisciplinary and dynamic project team. Furthermore, you are enthusiastic about working with standard and advanced data analysis methods, and possess excellent English communication and writing skills. Preferably you already have hands-on experience with experimental research, advanced statistical analysis techniques, and/or programming skills.

What we offer
As PhD at Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:
  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale P according to UFO profile PhD, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 and €3539,00 gross per month (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1,0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow.
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model.
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students.
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as 'acknowledge and appreciate'.

The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply. For more information, click here.

Maastricht University
Why work at Maastricht University?
At Maastricht University (UM), everything revolves around the future. The future of our students, as we work to equip them with a solid, broad-based foundation for the rest of their lives. And the future of society, as we seek solutions through our research to issues from all around the world. Our six faculties combined provide a comprehensive package of study programmes and research.

In our teaching, we use the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) method. Students work in small groups, looking for solutions to problems themselves. By discussing issues and working together to draw conclusions, formulate answers and present them to their peers, students develop essential skills for their future careers.

With over 22,300 students and more than 5,000 employees from all over the world, UM is home to a vibrant and inspiring international community.

Are you drawn to an international setting focused on education, science and scholarship? Are you keen to contribute however your skills and qualities allow? Our door is open to you! As a young European university, we value your talent and look forward to creating the future together.

Click here for more information about UM.

Are you interested in this exciting position but still have questions? Feel free to contact Prof, dr. Milene Bonte at for more information.

Are you interested in this position and convinced that your experience will be valuable for Project LeesKans? Please submit your application latest by June 3 2024.

Please upload your CV, motivation letter, grade list, contact information of 2 referees.

Preferred starting date: October or November 2024.

Selected candidates will be invited for a first online interview that will be held on Friday June 28 or Tuesday July 2.

Applications received by e-mail will not be considered.

The vacancy is open for internal and external candidates. In case of equal qualifications, internal candidates will be prioritized.

Maastricht University is committed to promoting and nurturing a diverse and inclusive community. We believe that diversity in our staff and student population contributes to the quality of research and education at UM, and strive to enable this through inclusive policies and innovative projects led by teams of staff and students. We encourage you to apply for this position.


Maastricht University (UM)


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 963


Maastricht University (UM)

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Universiteitssingel 40, 6229ER, Maastricht

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 3 Jun 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).