Michael Wigelsworth

Michael Wigelsworth


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Personal profile


My work explores the feasibility and impact of early intervention and prevention approaches in child mental health, with a particular focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the context of primary education and schooling. Within this, I am interested in the early development of inter- and intra-personal skills and competencies that are theoretically and/or empirically linked to health outcomes later in the life course. I have a  particular focus on the context and environment for developing these skills, including the suitability of intervention approach and the appropriateness of methodology used in evaluation.

I am a Professor of Educational Psychology within the Manchester Institute of Education.  I arrived at the University in 2007 where I completed an M.Ed in Psychology of Education and subsequent PhD Education in 2010. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2015 and again to Professor in 2023.  I am currently the programme director for the BSc Educational Psychology. 

I am a Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society.  I have advised and collaborated with number of external stakeholders including the Early Intervention Foundation, Department for Education, Manchester City Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation. I have completed an  appointment as a topic expert in Social & Emotional wellbeing for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.  

I’m part of the Education and Psychology research group at the Manchester Institute of Education

Research interests

My research interests include:

  • The identification and assessment of core components of intervention, both in respect to psychological or 'practice' elements and to the associated pedagogical approaches.
  • Factors affecting the success of interventions including individual differences, school based factors and the wider ecology (e.g. cultural transferability).
  • The role of the teacher in respect to classroom processes in developing wellbeing, both for pupils but teachers themselves, and the nature of this relationship.
  • Factors impacting the design and implementation of programmatic curricula designed to support child mental health and wellbeing.
  • Evaluative approaches to school-based interventions in respect to methodological and analytical innovation. 

Further information

Recent Research projects

Mapping SEL provision in the Jamaican educational landscape

Working with the Jamaican Ministry of Education and the University of the West Indies, this project aims to understand the current landscape in respect to attitudes, perceptions and knowledge of Social and Emotional Learning within Jamaican primary education. This involved a national survey of Jamaican primary school teachers and series of ‘deeper dives’ using focus groups of school staff from across the island. 

Programmes to Practices: Identifying effective, evidence-based social and emotional learning strategies for teachers and schools

This novel and ambitious project sought to examine and categorise practices identified from within Social and Emotional Learning programmes.  Over 3,000 individual activities were coded in respect to their targeted skill (e.g. emotional regulation) and pedagogical approach (e.g. story vignettes). The project offers new insights into the nature of approach of existing programmes with suggests for more nuanced, flexible and culturally responsive approaches to SEL intervention. 

SPECTRUM Review: Development of EEF Guidance and database for using ‘character’ measures in evaluations

SPECTRUM (Social, Psychological, Emotional, Concepts of self, and Resilience: Understanding and Measurement) is a wide scoping exercise and systematic review of measures to be be used in assessing child and adolescent psycho-social outcomes.  A primary feature of the work is a free-to-use, interactive and searchable database of measures, each with a star rating assessing both robustness and ease of use.   You can search the SPECTRUM database here

The FRIENDS Programme: An evaluation of academic and emotional health outcomes

This randomised control trial is currently the world’s largest evaluation of the FRIENDS programme - an intervention designed to address or prevent the onset of early anxiety and depression. Over 3,000 children across 90+ schools participated in surveys, observations and interviews in examining the impact of FRIENDS. The trial is one of the first to examine academic attainment as a potential outcome of the FRIENDS programme.  

Inclusive: Academic impact of a whole-school approach to reducing bullying and aggressive behaviour in secondary schools

This was an independent evaluation, conducted in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation and, University College London and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygine of the INCLUSIVE programme (also known as Learning Together). INCLUSIVE is a whole-school programme using a restorative practice approach to reduce bullying and aggression was conducted, examing academic impact the programme. 

Supervision information

Information for doctoral applications

I welcome doctoral applicants with an interest in social and emotional learning in schools, mental health and well-being of pupils and/or teachers, or other similar areas of prevention science. 

Applicants with a particular focus using realist approaches to address questions around children’s outcomes and the factors that influence these (i.e. ‘what works’ (and for whom)) are particularly encouraged.  However, alternative approaches are also gladly received, as successful applicants will join a multi-disciplinary team using a range of methods and approaches.

More specifically, potential applicants are welcome to consider key questions around topics such as:

 - “Kernels” of practice (see, for example: https://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/Navigating-Social-and-Emotional-Learning-from-the-Inside-Out.pdf

 - Differential impacts and ‘response to intervention’ for various subgroups (please note that this is in relation to the broad constructs(s) of emotional mental health and wellbeng,  not a focus on SEN itself).

 - Cultural transferability of interventions.

 - Implementation factors relating to SEL and/or positive promotion & prevention frameworks

Potential applicants are directed to the following indicative publications as a broad indication of the field(s) I will supervise. Although not absolutely necessary, successful proposals are likely to share a literature base with one or more of the following publications:

Wigelsworth, M., Verity, L., Mason, C., Humphrey, N., & Qualter, P. (2019).  Programmes to Practice: Identifying effective, evidence-based social and emotional learning strategies for teachers and schools.  London: Education Endowment Foundation. https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/guidance-reports/social-and-emotional-learning/

Wigelsworth, M., Lendrum, A., Oldfield, J., Scott, A., ten Bokkel, I., & Emery, C. (2016). The impact of trial stage, developer involvement and international transferability on universal social and emotional learning programmes: A meta-analysis. Cambridge Journal of Education, 46, 347-376. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2016.1195791

Wigelsworth, M., Squires, G., Birchinall, L., Kalambouka, A., Lendrum, L., Black, L… Britteon, P. (2018).  FRIENDS for life: Evaluation report and executive summary.  London: Education Endowment Foundation. https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/friends/ 

Wigelsworth, M., Qualter, P., & Humphrey, N. (2016).  Emotional self-efficacy, conduct problems and academic attainment: developmental cascade effects in early adolescence.  European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 14, 172-189. https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2016.1180971

Lendrum, A., & Wigelsworth, M. (2013).  The evaluation of school-based social and emotional learning interventions: Current issues and future directions.  Psychology of Education Review 37, 70-74. http://man.ac.uk/vpn1Zm


I will typically ask prospective doctoral candidates to present their ideas in the form of of a proposal.  This is by no means a final declaration of what you intend - it serves a first set in understanding your broad topic and approach.  Further guidance on composing a proposal can be seen here:



For those in an earlier stage of their career who wish to purse research in this area may consider applying for the M.Ed Psychology of Education:


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Areas of expertise

  • BF Psychology
  • Educational psychology


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