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Ms N.L. (Nihayra) Leona MSc

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Programme group Developmental Psychology
Photographer: onbekend

Visiting address
  • Nieuwe Achtergracht 129
  • Room number: 1.01
Postal address
  • Postbus 15916
    1001 NK Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Profile


    I am a developmental psychologist and I'm currently working at the University of Amsterdam as a PhD student. I completed the Research Master Psychology in 2014. My main research topic is: bi-/multilingualism and language acquisition by children. My PhD project, Oral and Written English Language Learning (ORWELL),  focuses on individual differences in acquisition of English as a second or third language. My goal is to investigate the influence of psychological and motivational factors on (second/third) language acquisition. In the ORWELL project my focus is among others on the influence of motivational factors, out-of-school exposure to English, students' language background, and cognitive factors like attention, phonological awareness and RAN on the development of English vocabulary, reading and spelling. I also investigate to what extent performance in the school language (Dutch) relates to performance in a second/third language (English). When it concerns students with Dutch as a second language, I investigate to what extent dominance of the home language relates to the acquisition of English as a third language. My PhD project is a longitudinal study in which I follow 300 Dutch primary school students from grade 4 to grade 6. For more information about this project see: and

    Before I started my PhD project I taught among others the subjects Statistics, Academic Writing and Critical Thinking at the department of Psychology of the University of Amsterdam (2nd year students). In my spare time I'm a editor of the Levende Talen Magazine ( and I'm also chairwoman of the section Papiamentu of Levende Talen (


    Other research interests

    - academic performance of immigrant children and adolescents
    - reading performance and reading motivation (of low-achieving students)
    - creole languages in education
    - tests fairness

  • CV


    Sep. 2011 – Apr. 2014

    Research Master Psychology (cum laude), University of Amsterdam

    Specialization Developmental Psychology & Methods
    Title thesis

    Application of the theory of planned behavior to low-achieving adolescents’
    reading behavior


    Sep. 2007 – Aug. 2011

    Bachelor Psychology (Honours, cum laude), University of Amsterdam

    Specialization Developmental Psychology & Educational Psychology
    Title thesis De mediërende rol van contextuele factoren in het verband tussen                     
    onderwijsvorm en de ontwikkeling van L1- en L2-Taalvaardigheid

    Sep. 2006 – Jul. 2007

    Communication Science, University of Twente


    Feb. 2003 – Jul. 2006

    Business Administration (cum laude), Saxion Hogeschool Enschede

    Feb. 2005 - Jul. 2005 'Diplomatura en Ciencias Empresariales', Universitat de Florida



    Aug. 1996 – Jun. 2002

    Pre-University education (VWO), Maria Immaculata Lyceum (Curaçao)



    May 2015 – present

    PhD candidate, University of Amsterdam (Developmental Psychology)

      Oral and Written English Language Learning (ORWELL) project

    Feb. 2015 – Jul. 2015

    Testing Assistant, Montessori College Oost

      Psychological testing of immigrant children

    Aug. 2014 – Jul. 2015

    Teaching Assistant, University of Amsterdam

      Conducting 3rd year Psychology workgroups for the subjects
    Cognitive Development, Social and Emotional Development,
    Educational Psychology and Health and Youth care

    Aug. 2013 – Jul. 2015

    Junior Teacher, University of Amsterdam


    Teaching 2nd year Psychology in Scientific Writing


    Aug. 2013 – Jul. 2015

    Teaching Assistant, University of Amsterdam

      Conducting 2nd year Psychology workgroups for the subjects
    Statistics, Psychodiagnostics, Critical Thinking

    Feb. 2013 – Apr. 2013

    Co-trainer, LeS in Diversiteit

      Training Assistant in training about cultural diversity and sensitivity when
    working with patients with different cultural backgrounds

    Sept. 2009 – Nov. 2013 

    Coordinator Testing Sessions and Digital System for Research Subjects,
    University of Amsterdam

      Organizing big testing session for the department of Psychology (250
    students per session), programming testing instruments, keeping the
    digital system up to date, assisting researchers in execution of their research

    Nominations, Prizes & Grants

    January 2018 Sylvia W. de Groot grant for research in the Caribbean
    January 2015 Research Master Thesis prize, winner
    November 2014 Stichting Lezen Thesis prize, shortlist best 5 theses
  • Research Projects

    Research Projects


    PhD project

    Oral and Written English Language Learning (ORWELL)

    2015-2020 University of Amsterdam & Rudolf Berlin Institute
    Collaboration Margreet van Koert, Patrick Snellings, Judith Rispens, Jurgen Tijms & Maurits van der Molen
      This longitudinal project aims at identifying individual factors that influence English language learning of Dutch primary school students. Approximately 300 students are followed in grade 4, 5 and 6. Individual factors being measured are among others: English language learning motivation, out-of-school exposure to English, students' language background, cognitive performance, attention, language performance in Dutch as well as English (phonological awareness, grammar, spelling, reading skills, vocabulary).


    Caribbean project

    Het Engels én het Papiaments; Een exceptioneel Caribisch geval van tweetalig onderwijs in het
    hoger secundair onderwijs

    2018-2019 University of Amsterdam, University of Utrecht & Skaih Pre-universitario
    Collaboration Rick de Graaff, Humphrey Senior & Ronny Lauffer
      In this project I will investigate the language development (Papiamentu, English, Dutch) of the first cohort of students visiting the bilingual Papiamentu-English of the Skaih Pre-universitario. The Skaih Pre-universitario is the first school on Curaçao that will use a creole language and mother tongue of most of the students as instruction language alongside with English. Students' language performance, motivation to learn English and out-of school exposure to English will be measured prior to entering the education programme and after a year of bilingual education.


    Master Thesis

    Reading motivation and performance of low-achieving students

    2013-2014 Kohnstamm Institute & University of Amsterdam
    Collaboration Mariska Okkinga, Patrick Snellings & Amos van Gelderen
    (Master thesis)
    Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior to low-achieving adolescents'
    reading behavior


    In this project I applied the Theory of Planned Behaviour to investigate the relationship between reading motivation and reading behaviour of 500 7th grade Dutch low-achieving students (VMBO-b/k, age: 12).


    Research Internship

    Effectivity research on a new language programme

    2012 Montessori College Oost & University of Amsterdam
    (Internship report)
    The Effectiveness of an Intervention Program for Newcomer Immigrant
    Adolescents on Different Indicators of Academic Success
      In this project I investigated whether a newly developed language programme for older immigrant students (age: > 16) was more effective than business as usual. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the programmes I considered factors like school performance, scholastic well-being, school absenteeism and language achievement (Dutch).
  • Publications


    • Leona, N. (2018). Sylvia W. de Groot grant for research in the Caribbean.

    Talk / presentation

    • Leona, N. (invited speaker), Snellings, P. J. F. (speaker), Rispens, J. E. (speaker), van der Molen, M. W. (speaker), van Koert-Hoogervorst, M. J. H. (speaker) & Tijms, J. (speaker) (18-12-2018). The essential role of extramural English for Dutch Young English Language Learners' vocabulary learning, Bijdrage aan het symposium Foreign language use in education op COM2018 (Conference on Multilingualism). Gent, België, Gent, Belgium.
    • Leona, N. (speaker) (12-9-2018). The English language competence of Curaçaoan students entering bilingual secondary education: Predictors of English Vocabulary Knowledge and Text Comprehension, Regional Conference On Mother Tongue Based Bilingual Secondary Education <br/>, Curaçao.
    • Leona, N. (speaker), Rispens, J. E. (speaker), van der Molen, M. W. (speaker), van Koert-Hoogervorst, M. J. H. (speaker), Tijms, J. (speaker) & Snellings, P. J. F. (speaker) (1-6-2018). Extramural exposure, not motivation, is critical to children’s second language learning, Anéla 2018 , Egmond aan Zee, Netherlands.
    • Leona, N. (speaker) (17-12-2017). Extramural English vs. motivation: Extramural English as the more important predictor of English language learners’ vocabulary., University of Groningen.
    • Snellings, P. J. F. (speaker) & Leona, N. L. (speaker) (1-11-2017). Engelse Taalvaardigheid in het Primair Onderwijs, NRO Conferentie Onderwijs en Onderzoek, Amersfoort, Netherlands.
    • Leona, N. (speaker) & Snellings, P. J. F. (speaker) (1-11-2017). Engelse taalvaardigheid in PO, NRO Conferentie Onderwijs en Onderzoek, Amersfoort, Netherlands.
    • van Koert-Hoogervorst, M. J. H. (speaker), Rispens, J. E. (speaker), Leona, N. L. (speaker), van der Molen, M. W. (speaker) & Snellings, P. J. F. (speaker) (9-6-2017). Het ORWELL project: voorspellen en stimuleren van Engels leren op de basisschool, Workshop Vreemdetalenonderwijs voor kinderen met een taalontwikkelingsstoornis.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • No ancillary activities