Addressing emotional barriers in mathematics education using attachment-based creative (neuro-dramatic) play

Project summary

The objective of this PhD is to assess the efficacy of attachment-based creative NDP (neuro-dramatic play) (Jennings 2011) to address emotional barriers in maths education.   

The PhD programme of research will broadly meet the aim of designing and testing the effectiveness of attachment-based creative NDP to address emotional barriers in maths education to:   

Dr Thomas Hunt leads the Mathematics Anxiety Research Group at the University of Derby, which carries out a wide range of studies related to understanding and addressing maths anxiety. The PhD programme represents a collaboration between psychology and therapeutic arts.

Dr Clive Holmwood is an expert in creative therapy and NDP and Dr Christopher Barnes is a development psychologist with expertise in parenting and child development.

This novel, interdisciplinary approach would involve crossing boundaries and building on existing theoretical work concerning attachment and maths anxiety. There is a need for practical, scalable classroom-based strategies to reduce maths anxiety in primary-aged children and the proposed programme of research will provide a unique and important contribution. The candidate will have some knowledge of, or at least be willing to develop, an understanding of creative and expressive approaches suitable for the research.

This PhD will support the expansion of learning resources that will be disseminated internationally and the potential candidate will join a vibrant PhD community. For more information please see

Research group

Mathematics Anxiety Research Group

Entry requirements

Applicants will need either a first-class or upper-second-class honours degree accredited by the British Psychological Society in Psychology or a related subject area and knowledge/interest in or a willingness to learn and develop a range of creative NDP based approaches.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students

Project specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Thomas Hunt ( in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required. 


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.


Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Dr Barnes is a chartered psychologist conducting and supervising doctoral research in the areas of parenting, child development and nature connection. He works with a diverse range of populations, such as with babies born prematurely, typically developing children and those with a developmental disorder.

Senior Lecturer Dramatherapy
Associate Professor

Clive is a a Senior Lecturer in Department of Therapeutic Arts within the School of Allied Health and Social Care.