You have a cool job, don't you?

This was exactly what a parent recently said to me after visiting the Leeds Child Development Unit (LCDU) to take part in one of our studies. And I do have a very cool job. My job is cool for many reasons. For one, it’s an immensely varied job. One day I can be writing an article in the morning, before finding myself stood in front of a room of teachers & practitioners, discussing what shared book reading means to them. The next day I can be heading off to a conference (sometimes internationally if I’m lucky) to present some of our recent research findings to colleagues from other universities and departments.

However, my job is particularly cool because right now we’re in what us researchers call a ‘testing phase’ of our research. This is when, in our case, having gone out into the big wide world and asked prospective families if they’d be keen participate in some exciting new research, we invite them to come and see us for an hour or so at the LCDU. Here’s what happens when one of our families visits us…

When the parent and their child arrive at the LCDU I start by welcoming the families into the lab, and explaining a little bit about the research we do and why we do it. We then make our way to the playroom where the parent reads the information sheet and fills out a consent form, while the child and I usually share some toys or books together. This is a really important part of the session as it allows the child to get to know me a bit (and vice versa). In this particular study, I then go through some language games with the child. The language games give us a measure of their vocabulary and involve getting the child to name objects and point to different pictures. After a short break we then all go through to another room where the child sits in front of a computer monitor and a piece of equipment called an eyetracker. Essentially, the eyetracker is a very fancy video camera which records where the child is looking. In this particular study, a series of images or videos appear on the screen, and sounds are played from external speakers. We want to measure children’s interest in what they are listening to based on how long they continue to look at the screen.

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At the end of the session, we all go back to the playroom and I fully ‘debrief’ families and tell them what the study was specifically about. Finally, to thank families for contributing to our research, we give them a ‘goody bag’ to take away with them and a Young Scientist certificate just like the one below. You can find out what families thought about taking part in our latest study here.

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Like many research centres, the LCDU relies on volunteers to take part in our research, which we’re incredibly grateful for. If your child is interested in taking part in one of our studies, you can register your details with us here.

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Jamie Lingwood
Research Fellow

My research interests include language development, language processing, and shared book reading.