Lara Ragpot, DEd

Dean, School of Education; Professor of Education

Lara Ragpot is a full professor in the School of Education and Director of the Master of Arts in Educational Studies – Special Education (MAES-SPED). Her main focus in the courses she teaches is childhood development and special education. More specifically, she is motivated to understand the exceptional child – how they learn and how to best support educators to teach them. She has published in the fields of social issues in education, childhood cognitive development, early mathematical cognition, the interface of neuroscience, psychology and pedagogy, and teacher education.

Lara is also a Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. In international collaborative work with the University of Helsinki (Finland) and the Universities of Potsdam and Duisburg-Essen in Germany, she has conducted various studies on young children’s math cognition and executive functioning in South Africa. Dr Ragpot was also one of the main investigators who launched the UJ Centre for Education Practice Research Cognition Lab, which focuses on the research of young children’s conceptual development to inform education in South Africa. Her recent work includes a large-scale study which will profile the pre-school child in South Africa.

Dr. Ragpot won the Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence, at the University of Johannesburg in 2014/2015. This award is given to the best instructor across all four of the university’s campuses and 50 000+ students. In 2015, Lara was awarded a national prize for Excellence in Teaching in Higher Education by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) & Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA). This award is conferred to an individual for exceptional teaching at tertiary level across 53 national higher education institutions and universities in South Africa.

Teaching and Learning

Using the work of Vygotsky, Lara believes that learning happens best when students are active participants; when they learn by doing. She emphasises the importance of multi-modal, flexible teaching with the teacher functioning as a bridge as the learning progresses, but at the same time points out that is important for students to have an explicit, supportive structure. Lara integrates collages, drama, dance, film and art into her teaching.

“I daily ask myself how I measure my efficacy as an instructor. True, course content should be based on sound theory and new ideas proposed in research and literature. But, at the same time I believe that students should have autonomy and learning should be innovative and engaging. In the end students should come to my class because they are eager to see what they will learn today and also, how they will get to learn it. Thus, I have to keep sessions dynamic and filled with energy in a co-constructive space I share with my students.”

  • DEd Psych (Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • MEd Psych (Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • BEd Hons (Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • HOD (Pretoria, South Africa)
  • BA (Pretoria, South Africa)


Childhood Development; Childhood Mathematical Cognition; Executive Functioning in Childhood; Childhood Perceptual development; Children with Exceptionalities

Books and Chapters in Books

  1. Ragpot, L., & Van der Vyfer, L. (in press). The Lioness Within – support for childhood bullying. Johannesburg, SA: Werkwoord Press.
  2. Fitzpatrick, C. & Ragpot, L. (in press). Executive functions in the South African early grade learner: Foundations for student teachers. In Sarah Gravett & Elizabeth Henning (Eds.). Exploring South African Primary School Teacher Education - Perspectives on Education in Africa. Cape Town: Routledge.
  3. Ragpot, L. & Van der Vyfer, L. (2018). My Little Light – support for childhood grief. Johannesburg, SA: Werkwoord Press.
  4. Ragpot, L., Van der Vyfer, L., & Gravett, S. (2017). Funda UJabule (Learn and be Joyful). Johannesburg, SA: Werkwoord Press.
  5. Ragpot, L. (2018). Knowledge of Neuroscience for the Classroom. In, I. Eloff & E Swart (eds.), Understanding Educational Psychology. Cape Town: JUTA.
  6. Ragpot, L. (2018). Cognitive psychology: post-Piagetian notions of childhood conceptual change. In, I. Eloff & E Swart (eds.), Understanding Educational Psychology. Cape Town: JUTA.
  7. Fritz, A., Balzer, L., Herholdt, R., Ragpot, L., & Ehlert, A., Henning, E. Assessment of Mathematics and Numeracy Competence Levels: MARKO-D Test & Test Manual. Cape Town: OASIS.
  8. Ragpot, L. & Robinson, L. (in press). Solution Focused Play Therapy as a Whole-Class Intervention. In Von Ziffrabergs, J. (Eds.). Solution Focused Case Study Handbook. Johannesburg: Solution Focused Society of South Africa.
  9. Ragpot, L. (2012). Handbook to Support Learning in Grade R. Johannesburg: Vivlia Publishers (ISBN: 9781430723622).


Peer reviewed conference proceedings
  1. Ragpot, L. & Törmänen, M. (2016). ThinkMath intervention programme for low performing South African first graders: findings from a pilot study. Paper 3 accepted, EARLI Sig 15, Symposium: Early cognitive and mathematical skills development – assessment and (special) educational interventions.  European Learning and Instruction Conference (EARLI), 30-31 August, Leuven, Belgium. Discussant Johan Korhonen.
  2. Ragpot, L., Balzer, L., Herholdt, R., & Henning, E. (2015).  Assessing first grade children’s mathematical competence in South Africa. Paper 3 in EARLI Symposium:  Mathematical skills development and intervention in early school years. European Learning and Instruction Conference (EARLI), 25-29 August, Limassol, Cyprus. Discussant Annemie Desoete.
  3. Ragpot, L. (2013). Playing Out Theories of Cognitive Development: Student Teachers Learning With Theatre and Dance. AERA Symposium: Innovation in Pre-Service Teacher Education in South Africa: Towards Intellectual and Material Poverty Reduction. AERA Annual Meeting, 22-24 April 2013. San Francisco, USA. Discussant Prof Kathryn Snow.
  4. Henning, L. & Ragpot, L. (2013). Getting Close in Translation between German, English, isiZulu and Sesotho in a German Mathematics Test. Symposium: Testing the mathematical Competence of Young Children in Germany and South Africa. European Learning and Instruction Conference (EARLI), 26-30 August 2013. Munich, Germany. Discussant Prof Deutlev Leutner.
Articles in Refereed/Peer Reviewed Journals
  1. Ragpot, L. (under review). Pre-service teachers’ longitudinal study of children’s development and learning in an initial primary school teacher qualification. South African Journal of Childhood Education, Special Issue Teacher Education.
  2. Aunio, P., Korhonen, J., Ragpot, L., Törmänen. (under review). An early numeracy intervention for first graders at risk for mathematical learning difficulties. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
  3. Uitzinger, C. & Ragpot, L. (under review). The use of cognitively targeted assessment instruments in the Psycho-educational assessment of low achievers in Mathematics. South African Journal of Psychology (SAJP). Available online at
  4. Ragpot, L., Coppard, S., Fritz-Stratmann, A. (under review). Assessing the culture fairness of an intelligence test by adjusting the test times and pictorial examples: a pilot study with grade 2 learners in four Johannesburg schools, South African Journal of Psychology (SAJP). Available online at
  5. Aunio, P., Korhonen, J., Ragpot, L., Törmänen, M., Mononen, R., & Henning, E. (2019). Multi-factorial approach to early numeracy - the effects of cognitive skills, language factors and kindergarten attendance on early numeracy performance of South African first graders. Journal of Early Intervention.
  6. Ragpot, L. (2018). The essence of future teaching and learning in the foundation phase: knowing the developing mind of the child in the theory practice interface, South African Journal of Education, SAJE.
  7. Aunio, P., Mononen, R., Ragpot, L., Henning, E.  (2016). Early Numeracy Performance in South African First Graders. South African Journal of Childhood Education, 6(3).
  8. Ogunyemi, F.T., & Ragpot, L. (2015). Work and play in early childhood education:  Views from Nigeria and South Africa. South African Journal of Childhood Education, 5(3).
  9. Fritz, A., Balzer, L., Herholdt, R., Ragpot, L., & Ehlert, A. (2014). A Mathematics competence test for Grade 1 children migrates from Germany to South Africa. South African Journal of Childhood Education, 4(2), pp. 121-135. ISSN code: 2223-7674. Online ISSN code: 2223-7682.
  10. Ragpot, L. (2014). Film as teacher education genre: Developing student agency in the production of #TaxiMaths – how children make their world mathematical. South African Journal of Childhood Education, 4(2), pp. 114-134. ISSN code: 2223-7674. Online ISSN code: 2223-7682.
  11. Henning, E. & Ragpot, L. (2014) Symbolic knowledge of pre-school children: the genesis of a cognition lab at a South African University. South African Journal of Psychology (SAJP). DOI:10.1177/00812463145199. Available online at
  12. Ragpot, L. (2012). Assessing student learning by way of drama and visual art: A semiotic mix in a course on cognitive development. Education as Change, 15(1): S1, pp. 63-78. ISSN code: 1682-3206. DOI: 10.1080/16823206.2011.643625.
  13. Pillay, J. & Ragpot, L. (2011). Values, Education and Democracy: Manifesto or Myth? Journal of Educational Studies, 11(1), S1, pp. 104-120. ISSN code: 1680-7456.
  14. Pillay, J. & Ragpot, L. (2010). Violent schools in violent Gauteng: Where the right to learn has to be defended. Education as Change, 14 (1) S1, pp.33-44. ISSN code: 1682-3206. DOI: 10.1080/16823206.2010.517912.

Awards & Honors

  • 2015: National Excellence in Teaching Award in Higher Education, across 53 National Higher Education Institutions and Universities in South Africa. Council on Higher Education ((CHE) & Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA), National Excellence in Teaching Awards 2015, Teaching Commendation.
  • 2014: Vice Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence, 2014/2015. Best Professor University of Johannesburg across all four campuses.


  1. Principal Investigator – South Africa: One year project on “The profile of pre-school children in Gauteng-West, South Africa.” [Joint grant awarded by SASOL SA and Rotary Club, South Africa, grant 2019-2020].
  2. Principal investigator – South Africa: One year project on the South African Adaptation of the Finnish ThinkMath Intervention for low performing Grade 1 learners [National Research Foundation (NRF) University Research Committee (URC) grant 2016/2017]
  3. Principal investigator: investigator: One year project on the intersect of Executive functioning and mathematical conceptual development in childhood. [National Research Foundation (NRF, University Research C (URC) grant  2014-2015]
  4. Principal investigator: Three year project on Early mathematical cognition in childhood. [National Research Foundation (NRF) Thuthuka Grant: 2014 – 2016]
  5. Part of South African research team lead by Prof Elizabeth Henning (University of Johannesburg, RSA) and Prof Annemarie Fritz-Strattmann (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany) on the South African adaptation of the MARKO-D mathematical cognition diagnostic test for 4-8 year olds.

Invited Keynote / Plenary Address

  1. Ragpot, L. 2019. Invited featured speaker. InspirED Convention. Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, November 7-8, 2019.
  2. Ragpot, L. (2018). Mind, brain and education – are we educating children for the 4th industrial revolution? Conference keynote delivered at the SAHISA (South African Heads of Independent Schools Association) Annual Conference, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, 23 October, 2018.
  3. Ragpot, L. (2017). Early Identification and Screening of Children with Learning Difficulties. SAHETI Schools Annual Professional Multi-Disciplinary Event, Senderwood, Johannesburg, South Africa, 18 October, 2017.
  4. Ragpot, L. (2017). How do I nurture my professional self when working with trauma in South African Contexts? Society of Radiographers South Africa (SORSA) Annual Meeting, Sandton, South Africa, 7 October, 2017.
  5. Ragpot, L. (2016). Math Interventions for low performing first graders. Plenary research paper presentation at RESEP Quantitative Research Conference, Stellenbosch, 19-20 September,
  6. Ragpot, L. (2016). Relationship between Policy, Theory and Practice in Early Childhood (ECD). Presented at the Early Years Education – Synchronising Theory and Practice, seminar. University of Pretoria, 22 November 2016.
  7. Ragpot, L. (2016). Executive Functioning in Childhood: Building Learning Bridges for the Future. Presented at the CEPD, Umalusi & Wits Seminar: Emerging Research in Childhood Education: Challenges and Insights. University of Witwatersrand, 9 March, 2016. Wits Education Campus, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  8. Rusznyak, L., Petersen, N., & Ragpot, L. (2014). Using organising concepts to coherence between coursework and the practicum: Examples from the Wits & UJ B Ed programmes. WITS Symposium on Academic Depth and Rigour in Initial Teacher Education Programmes, 31 October, 2014. Wits Education Campus, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  9. Ragpot, L. (2014). Getting to know the child’s mathematical world: a bridge between social science and social responsibility? University of Namibia International Education Conference, 11 September 201, Rundu, Namibia.
  10. Ragpot, L. & Fritz, E. (2010). Nurturing the Professional Self – exploring the world of spices and medicinal plants. National SAPSAC Conference, 19 March 2011. Pretoria: South Africa.
  11. Fritz, E. & Ragpot, L. (2010). Nurturing the Professional Self – who plays in your team? Presented at the National SAPSAC Conference, 19 May 2010. Pretoria: South Africa.

International & National Public Lectures

  1. Ragpot, L. (2018). Students’ development of concepts and their language of learning and instruction: lessons learnt from selected South African research. Presented at the School of Human Development and Learning, University of British Columbia (UBC), on 4 April, 2018. UBC, Vancouver, Canada.
  2. Ragpot, L. (2015). United we stand: how school communities deal with bullying. Presented at the Teacher’s upfront Conversation Series on Bullying in Schools, University of Witwatersrand, on 18 March, 2015. Wits Education Campus, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Video link available at:
  3. Balzer, L., Ragpot, L., Herholdt, R. & Henning, E. (2014). How can valid tests contribute to children's learning of mathematics in the foundation phase? Presented at the University of Johannesburg: Bunting Road Campus, 26 June, 2014. Johannesburg, South Africa.
  4. Ragpot. L. (2013). Young children’s learning: then and now. Presented at the READ Foundation, 24 April, 2013. Johannesburg, South Africa.
  5. Ragpot, L. (2012). Beyond words using language versus communication. Presented at the Teacher’s upfront Conversation Series on Language in Education, University of Johannesburg, 26 September 2012. Johannesburg, South Africa.
  6. Ragpot, L.(2012) Multi-modal assessment in a pre-service teacher education course. Harvard Graduate School for Education, 8 December 2011. Boston (MA), USA.

Academic Knowledge Translation / Artefacts

MARKO-D Test for Mathematical Cognition

I was part of a team of South African, German and Swiss researchers who have translated a German Mathematical cognition test - MARKO-D (Mathematical and Arithmetical Competence Diagnostic) into English and three other South African Languages. This test was developed by a group of researchers in Germany in 2009, (Fritz, Ricken & Balzer, 2009). This test, in collaboration with a research team from a university in Johannesburg in South Africa, was adapted to investigate the early numerical competence of children in South Africa. The test measures mathematical and arithmetical cognitive development and is designed for use in early childhood (ages 4-8). The test was originally designed to assist teachers and psychologists to diagnose mathematical cognitive competence so that early remediation can take place if necessary – but is available to all teachers in South Africa. The test has been standardized and normed for the South African population. The test is published by Hogrefe Publishing House in Europe and by Oasis publishing in South Africa. For further information, on availability, cost and training, contact

Academic Films:

  • EDUC 211 Psychological Foundations of Teaching and Learning
  • EDUC 310 The Exceptional Child in the Regular Classroom
  • EDUC 412 Strategies for the Exceptional Child
  • EDUC 513 Current Issues and Research in Students with Diverse Learning Needs
  • EDUC 516 Students with Diverse Cognitive Needs
  • EDUC 518 Students with Diverse Sensory Needs
  • EDUC 519 Special Topics in Diversity
  • EDUC 599 Ethical Issues in Diversity - Capstone Course