Dr Elizabeth Ruth Peterson


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Associate Professor


I started lecturing in the School of Psychology in 2006. Prior to that I had a United Kingdom ESRC postdoctoral fellowship in psychology, followed by a University of Auckland postdoctoral fellowship in Education. I completed my PhD in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh in 2003.

I am currently the director of the 5E Lab (Engage, Enhance, Enliven, Educate and Enable) at the University of Auckland.

Research | Current

Most of my research is broadly focused on trying to understand the factors, processes and pathways that optimise human learning and development and that promote happy, healthy, well rounded and resilient young people. I am particularly interested in the how people’s self-beliefs and expectations affect their wellbeing, learning and educational outcomes. I am keen to conduct research that is relevant to policy and practice with the aim of making a real difference. Please visit my lab page for more information about my specific research interests (5E lab).

One area that I have recently started to explore in more depth is failure. There is a popular maxim that we learn more from our failures than our successes, but yet for many people failure is something that is shameful and best not talked about it.  We need to create environments in which it is safe to fail and make mistakes or we run the risk of people not trying, not taking risks and not growing.

I am currently a named investigator on the Growing Up in New Zealand study. This is a multi-disciplinary longitudinal study following around 7000 New Zealand children from before birth into adulthood. The study is designed to better understand the pathways that lead to different developmental outcomes (good and poor) and seeks to improve the lives of all New Zealand’s children.

Visit the Growing Up website

I was also a principal investigator on the Teacher Expectation Project This three year Marsden funded study is investigating whether teacher expectations for their students’ achievement can be raised and sustained over time and the impact of raised expectations on students’ academic and social outcomes.

Find out more about the Teacher Expectation Project

I also conduct research on cognitive styles. Find out more information on my verbal imagery cognitive style test (VICS) and the extended Cognitive style analysis wholistic-analytic style test.


Teaching | Current

PSYCH 207 Theories of Personality and Development

PSYCH 722 Human Learning and Development


Chair of the School of Psychology Equity Committee

Areas of expertise

  • Failure
  • Educational Psychology
  • Educational Beliefs and Expectations
  • Conceptions of Learning
  • Cognitive Learning Styles


Committees/Professional groups/Services

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 2, Room 223
New Zealand

Web links