Centre for Reading and Language

Dr Fiona Duff

Dr Fiona Duff


After graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree in Psychology (2004) from the University of York, Fiona went on to work as a Research Assistant for 2 years. Working with Professor Charles Hulme and Professor Maggie Snowling (Principal Investigators) and Dr Claudine Crane (Project Manager), the focus of the research was on evaluating reading and language interventions, either for young children at risk for later reading difficulties due to weaknesses in language skills, or for older children with established reading difficulties.

Following her role as a Research Assistant Fiona remained at the Centre of Reading and Language, and carried out PhD research under the supervision of Charles Hulme. Here, she investigated the role of oral language skills in learning to read, considering different reader profiles (typical and atypical reading development) and different learning contexts (long-term reading interventions and short-term orthographic training studies). During her PhD, she received the BPS Postgraduate Award (2008), and completed a 3 month secondment to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Between 2009 and 2012, Fiona was employed by the University of York as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow. During this time, she worked on two longitudinal projects which enabled her to pursue interests in the inter-relations between spoken and written language and in evaluating interventions that address weaknesses in these skills. In both projects, an RCT was implemented to evaluate the effectiveness of a combined reading and language intervention. The REVI+ Project focussed on children with Down syndrome, whilst the Wellcome Language and Reading Project focussed on children at risk for reading difficulties (either due to pre-school language impairment, or family risk for dyslexia).

Fiona is currently working on the Nuffield Learning to Read Project, directed by Professors Kate Nation and Kim Plunkett, along with Gurpreet Reen. The overarching aim of this research is to explore whether parental measures of infant vocabulary skills predict language and literacy attainment in the school years.

Research interests

Fiona's research interests lie in understanding typical and atypical reading and language development, and in devising and evaluating theoretically-motivated interventions to help children with weaknesses in reading and language skills.

Selected publications

Hulme, C., Bowyer-Crane, C., Carroll, J. M., Duff, F. J. & Snowling, M. J.(2012) The causal role of phoneme awareness and letter-sound knowledge in learning to read: combining intervention studies with mediation analyses. Psychological Science.

Duff, F.  Hayiou-Thomas, E.M. & Hulme, C.  (2011).  Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Phonologically-based Reading Intervention for Struggling Readers with Varying Language Profiles.  Reading and Writing.

Bowyer-Crane, C., Snowling, M.J., Duff, F.J.  & Hulme, C.  (2011).  Response to early intervention of children with specific and general language impairment. Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Carroll, J. M., Bowyer-Crane, C. A., Duff, F. J., Hulme, C. & Snowling, M. (2011) Effective intervention for language and literacy in the early years. Wiley-Blackwell.

Snowling, MJ., Duff, F., Petrou, A,, Schiffeldrin, J. & Bailey, A.M. (2011) Identification of Children At Risk for Dyslexia: The Validity of Teacher Judgements using ‘Phonic Phases’. Journal of Research in Reading, 43, 157–170   DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9817.2011.01492.x

Duff, F.  & Hulme, C.  (submitted).  Differential Effects of Phonology and Semantics on Beginner Readers’ Orthographic Learning. Scientific Studies of Reading.

Duff, F. J. (2008). Defining reading disorders and evaluating reading interventions: Perspectives from the Response to Intervention model. Educational and Child Psychology, 25, 31-36.

Bowyer-Crane, C., Snowling, M. J., Duff, F. J., Fieldsend, E., Carroll, J. M., Miles, J., Götz, K., & Hulme, C. (2008). Improving early language and literacy skills: Differential effects of an oral language versus a phonology with reading intervention. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49, 422-432.

Duff, F. J., Fieldsend, E., Bowyer-Crane, C., Hulme, C., Smith, G., Gibbs, S., & Snowling, M. J. (2008). Reading with vocabulary intervention: Evaluation of an instruction for children with poor response to reading intervention. Journal of Research in Reading, 31, 319-336.

Duff, F. J., Ricketts, J., & Taylor, J. (2008). From Theory to Practice in Reading Comprehension: A report from the ESRC, Afasic Abstract, 3-4.

Duff, F. J. & Henderson, L. M. (2007). What is the nature of the cognitive deficit that characterises dyslexia? Contributions from a Festschrift for Uta Frith. Dyslexia Review, 18, 9-11.

Henderson, L. M., & Duff, F. J. (2007). Current perspectives and future directions in autism, dyslexia and conduct disorder: A celebration for Uta Frith. The Psychologist, 20 (online-only article)

Conference publications:

Duff, F, J., Hayiou-Thomas, E., & Hulme, C. (2009, June). Evaluating and predicting response to reading intervention. 16th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, Boston, MA, USA.

Clarke, P., & Duff, F. J. (2009, February). Linking language, reading and comprehension in research and practice. Dyslexia - Making Links: From Theory to Practice. British Dyslexia Association, Oxford, UK.

Duff, F. J., Fieldsend, E., Bowyer-Crane, C., Hulme, C., Smith, G., Gibbs, S., & Snowling, M. (2007, April). Reading with vocabulary intervention: Evaluation of an instruction for treatment non-responders. Poster presented at AFASIC 4th International Symposium, University of Warwick, UK.