Staff profile

Dr Simon Bignell

Senior Lecturer in Psychology




College of Health, Psychology and Social Care


School of Psychology


Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby; a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society; and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

My research interests include Autism, ADHD, and Technology-Enhanced Learning. I also have interests in Cyberpsychology and Veganism. I have led several funded projects within 3D virtual worlds (JISC, HEA, Psychology Network) and have served as reviewer for many scientific journals, and for many years was the Associate Editor for Conferences for the British Psychological Society’s monthly magazine The Psychologist.

I have been nominated for the UK’s Times Higher Education ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year’ Award and am committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation in Higher Education. I recently authored and led a free online course (MOOC) 'Understanding Autism, Asperger's & ADHD' that was taken by over 12,000 people from across the world. I am currently completing a book on this topic and developing a series of short courses for parents and professionals.

I originally graduated in Psychology from the former School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences (COGS) at the University of Sussex where I studied Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence. This was a very exciting time in Cognitive Science and the interdisciplinary atmosphere was exhilarating.

After Sussex University, I moved to the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex to do a PhD in ‘ADHD and Children’s Language’. There, I was Senior Research Officer and then Temporary Lecturer. I have also taught at London South Bank University, teaching Developmental Psychology and Psychological Research Methods, and lectured in Cognitive Psychology and Biological Psychology for The Open University.

Teaching responsibilities

I am Programme Leader for our Chesterfield Psychology Foundation degree. I teach online and on-campus Psychology students at Undergraduate and Masters levels across several Developmental Psychology, Cyberpsychology and Cognitive Psychology modules. I supervise many students at post-graduate level .

I have developed and lead the following final year modules:

Professional interests

I regularly talk at events and parent advocacy groups and schools on the subjects of Autism and ADHD. I have a track record of high-profile international talks in the field of Cyberpsychology.

Research interests

My interests are grounded in the perspectives of Developmental and Cognitive academic Psychology as well as Cyberpsychology. My primary research looks at the language and literacy skills of children who show symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I am also developing research that is investigating the language abilities of people diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In another area of research, I am evaluating teaching and research in multi-user 3D virtual environments and the benefit of these for people with developmental disorders such as Asperger's Syndrome and Autism. I am using correlation, experimental and action research methodologies.

Membership of professional bodies


Recent conferences

Verbal Presentations (up to 2014)

Keele University, Keele, UK. ‘Student Action for Sustainability Conference’, 2013. Title: Using Online Virtual Worlds to Engage with Students on Sustainability and Pro-Environmental BehaviourAbstract Link.

De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. ‘First Annual Cyberpsychology Conference’, 2013. Title: 3D virtual avatars and Machinima to educate students about sustainability. Abstract Link.

University of Idaho Auditorium, Second Life Online Conference. ‘Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) 2013’. Title: Using Second Life Avatars and Machinima to Introduce Sustainability into the University Curriculum: Evidence from Two Funded Pro-Environmental Behaviour StudiesAbstract Link.

University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK. ‘Social Networking in Cyberspace (SNIC2013) 2013’. Title: Sustainability education using an online virtual world: The PREVIEW-Sustain project. Abstract Link.

University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK. ‘Social Networking in Cyberspace (SNIC2013) 2013’. Title: Social and Problem-based Learning in Cyberspace: Tools, Techniques & Technology in Multi-User Virtual World Education.Abstract Link.

Buxton Campus, University of Derby. ‘Learning, Teaching and Assessment Conference (LTA) 2013’. Title: Using 3D Virtual Avatars to stimulate Pro-environmental Behaviour through the Curriculum: Engaging Students on Sustainability in Times of Change. With Zaheer Hussain & Rosemary Horry. Abstract Link.

Buxton Campus, University of Derby. (July, 2013) Learning, Teaching and Assessment Conference (LTA) 2013. Title: Does technology truly enhance student learning? With Kevin Silber, Charlie Davis & Jo Drummond-Child.

Experience in industry

I am a Director of a private Educational Psychology Service for parents, schools and Local Authorities.

International experience

I have given several invited Keynote Lectures at international conferences.

Additional interests and activities

In the media

Various media and press for BBC, ITV, CNN and local radio. (up to 2007)

Recent publications

Up to 2011

Parson, V & Bignell, S (2011) Using problem-based learning within 3D virtual worlds, in Hinrichs, R and Wankel, C (Eds), Transforming Virtual World Learning: Cutting-edge technologies in higher education, Vol. 4, pp. 245–265. Emerald Group Publishing Limited: Teynampet, India.

Bignell, S.J. (2010). Developing Innovative Problem-based Teaching in Virtual Worlds. Proceedings of Making Sense of Virtual Worlds Conference. Magleaas, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Bignell, S.J. (2010). Technology enriched problem-based learning in a 3D multi-user virtual world. Proceedings of Cyberpsychology & Computing Psychology 2010 (CyComp 2010). University of Bolton, UK.

Bignell, S.J. & Parson, V. (2010). Psychology Learning and Teaching in Virtual Worlds: the PREVIEW-Psych project. Proceedings of the Psychology Learning and Teaching Conference (PLAT2010). Edinburgh Napier University, UK.

Bignell, S.J. & Parson, V. (2010). Best Practices in Virtual Worlds Teaching. York, Higher Education Academy Psychology Network. (40 pages). Downloadable at

Bignell, S.J. (2009). Psychology on Second Life? Learning, Support and Research in 3D Online Multi-user Virtual Environments. Keynote Lecture at McCord Museum. International Conference on the Use of the Internet in Mental Health, McGill University, Canada.

People walking along a lake at sunset

Dr Simon Bignell, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, discusses autism across the lifespan and why better understanding is greatly needed.