University of Cambridge look to appoint LEGO professor of play

The clock is ticking for anyone wishing to become the University of Cambridge’s first LEGO professor of play, with the application deadline set for January 20. The role is part of a new department, the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (Pedal).

The Guardian has reported the following comments, explaining the reasoning for the new area of study.

“The value of play is relatively under-researched,” says Prof Anna Vignoles, interim director of Pedal and a member of Cambridge University’s faculty of education. “You have people who are claiming that it enhances learning, that it’s important, that it’s good for children’s wellbeing. All of that might be true, but actually there’s remarkably little evidence for that. The aim of the Pedal centre is to conduct rigorous research into the importance of play and how playful learning can be used to improve students’ outcomes.”

The LEGO Foundation, the charitable institute set up by the Kirk Kristiansen family to support play and creativity, is funding the role and has given a £4 million endowment to the University. The LEGO Foundation will not have control over the direction of the role, as it envisioned as an academic research role rather than to be engaged in advocacy for any particular policy.

The Guardian also spoke to the Head of the LEGO Foundation Centre about the role.

The foundation believes play has a critical role for children, particularly in high-quality learning. “Play should be part of education,” says Stjerne Thomsen. “What we want is to get the UK government to encourage more playful learning in schools, rather than testing. If children are being taught with standardised assessments and results, those children will expect to receive assignments and be led towards pre-defined goals for the rest of their lives.

“But the skills you need now as an adult are collaboration, problem solving and coming up with ideas. In that sense, play is critical. You use your imagination to plan things, to predict outcomes, to understand how to solve a problem by looking at it from different perspectives.

“For us, this is a unique opportunity to build research and interventions that can inform government policy, and also teachers – who are very good at teaching, but need other perspectives on the curriculum.”

Applications are only accepted for three more days, at which point the shortlisting process will begin.


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