One of the world’s most prestigious universities is hiring a professor of Lego, but if you want to apply, an engineering degree might not do you any good. Lego and the university are looking for an academic in the field of psychology to prove just how good playing with Lego bricks is for young kids.

Well, that’s part of it, anyway. The Lego Foundation has provided a £4 million grant to the University of Cambridge to establish the Professorship of Play in Education, Development, and Learning (Pedal), alongside a research center dedicated to studying the effects of playtime on child development. Lego has committed to continuing to fund the center and the professorship. The Lego Foundation won’t have any say in who gets the position, but considering the foundation’s stated goal is to encourage more play-based learning (as opposed to testing), they’re hoping the investment bears fruit.

In a way, this is all coming about because many in the both the fields of education and toys got a bit ahead of themselves. There’s a large contingent that believes testing needs to be de-emphasized, with creativity, play, and collaboration needed to teach the sort of critical thinking skills that are actually needed in the workplace.

That sounds intuitively true, but that’s not how science works! A report from The Guardian quotes Professor Anna Vignoles, who is leading the new center at Cambridge, as saying “The value of play is relatively under-researched. 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.”

In other words, Lego is hoping the new professor and the research center will prove that Lego, along with other kinds of creative toys, have a place in the classroom. But, the benefits could be more far-reaching than that — if the research that comes out of the new center does prove the benefits of play, it could also dig deeper to find how best to bring play into the classroom.

So, whoever gets this job has their work cut out for them. On the other hand, they also get to research Lego (and other toys!) — as far as academic positions go, that’s a pretty sweet gig. The University of Cambridge is seeking applications now, but if you’ve got the credentials, you’ll want to build your pitch fast. Applications must be submitted by tomorrow, January 20.

Via The Guardian

This story was originally published at The University of Cambridge is Hiring a Professor of Lego

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