Some people think that academia is all work and no play, but that won’t be the case at the University of Cambridge. In 2015, the English educational institution announced that they were looking to hire the world’s first full-time professor of play, development, and learning. As The Guardian reports, the application for the LEGO professorship is due on Friday, January 20—meaning fun-loving scholars only have three days left to throw their hats in the ring.
Cambridge’s so-called "LEGO professorship" was established by a £4 million donation from the LEGO Foundation, a corporate foundation whose mission, according to its website, is "to make children’s lives better—and communities stronger—by making sure the fundamental value of play is understood, embraced, and acted upon." More than a third of that donation will fund a new Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning (PEDAL), led by the LEGO professor; the remaining money will go toward the professorship.
Scientists are still figuring out how play contributes to child development, and they’re hoping that PEDAL will provide some answers. Ultimately, their findings may influence how children are taught in schools—think more playful learning instead of tests.
"The value of play is relatively under-researched," Cambridge professor Anna Vignoles, who's currently serving as PEDAL’s interim director, told The Guardian. "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 center is to conduct rigorous research into the importance of play and how playful learning can be used to improve students’ outcomes."
Cambridge University is in charge of the hiring process, and they’re seeking a candidate whose focus is educational psychology. Even though the LEGO Foundation has no ultimate say in the final hire, they’re hoping the candidate will be playful, curious, open-minded, imaginative, and possess a "childlike mindset," according to Bo Stjerne Thomsen, the LEGO Foundation’s global head of research. As for experience level, applicants don’t need to have already held a professorship, as more emphasis will be placed on their research skills.
No word on whether the position will include playing with actual LEGOs, but if that's the case, the world's largest LEGO store opened in London's Leicester Square in November, making it worth a field trip.
[h/t The Guardian]