Each year ELLa has are a limited number of spaces for Honours, Masters and Research Higher Degree (RHD/PhD) students. We are always looking for bright, engaged and committed students who wish to contribute to current projects, and we welcome new ideas. Listed below are some research topics that we are currently exploring at ELLA.
Relevance and selective learning in early childhood: Words are effective communication tools when their meanings are shared by members within a linguistic group. This fact about language becomes clear when you visit a foreign country and are unable to communicate with the population because you do not share knowledge of the meanings of their words. We study when infants understand the shared nature of word meanings and how this understanding shapes older children’s word learning. Students working in this domain may work on either looking at infants’ expectations surrounding the shared nature of words or how information about the relevance of a new word influences preschoolers’ word learning. The specific question in this topic to be addressed will be determined once the student has been matched to Dr Henderson.
Cooperation development in early childhood: Cooperative activities pervade our everyday lives. Given how essential cooperation is to human groups, it is not surprising that infants learn to cooperate within the first two years of their lives. However, little is known about the factors that influence the development of cooperative competence in early childhood. This project will involve being a part of a longitudinal study looking at the emergence of cooperation across the first two years of life. Questions the project might address are: Does previous cooperative experience influence later cooperative ability? Is there a relationship between socio-cognitive skills such as imitation and joint attention influence infants’ cooperative understanding and ability? What demographic factors influence infants’ coperative ability? Are infants who are good cooperators also good helpers? The specific question in this topic to be addressed will be determined once the student has been matched to Dr Henderson.
Deconstructing early communicative development: Infants engage in communicative interactions with their caregivers from the moment they are born. The goal of this project is to identify the aspects of early communicative interactions, such as peek-a-boo, that generalise across infant-caregivers dyads. This project will involve being part of a longitudinal study looking at the development of communicative interactions between infants and their caregivers across the first two years of life. Questions the project might address are: How does the structure of communicative interactions, such as peek-a-boo, change as infants age? How do these strategies differ across parent-infant dyads? How do parents teach their infants words at the earliest stages of development? These are just a few questions that could be examined by the student working on this project. The specific question in this topic to be addressed will be determined once the student has been matched to Dr Henderson.