Norland is delighted to announce that one of the world’s leading experts in infant brain development, communication and emotional health, Professor Colwyn Trevarthen, will give the keynote address at its annual research conference.

Colwyn Trevarthen is Emeritus Professor of Child Psychology and Psychobiology at the University of Edinburgh. After training as a biologist in his native New Zealand, Professor Trevarthen went on to research infancy at Harvard University. He has published widely on brain development, infant communication and emotional health. His research has demonstrated that a newborn baby has an innate ability to initiate and build up a dialogic relationship and shared understanding with an adult through eye contact, smiling and other holistic body functions rhythmically and cooperatively. He believes this shared understanding is a critical aspect of the very rapid cultural development of new born infants and that babies are looking for companionship (including a sense of fun and playfulness), engagement and relationship. He says: “I think the ideal companion – and it can be a practitioner or not – is a familiar person who really treats the baby with playful human respect.”

Norland college gate entrance

The world-famous specialist provider of childcare training and higher education will hold its annual research conference on 29 June 2021. Professor Trevarthen will open proceedings with a keynote address entitled ‘joy and pride for play with friends from birth’. Leading experts at Norland and from across the UK will speak on a range of topics including a review of different approaches to infant sleep, the development of a therapeutic intervention framework for young autistic children, the benefits of outdoor activities, the development of curious minds, the benefits of virtual practical training for developing professional skills, what makes home-based childcare distinctive, and on teaching and assessing early years undergraduate students.

The Bath-based early years centre will also shortly announce a call for papers for the first issue of its new online, peer-reviewed research journal, the Norland Educare Research Journal. The open-access journal will focus on the under-researched area of home-based childcare. It is due to be launched in June 2022. Access to the journal will be free, enabling researchers, teachers, students, early years practitioners, parents and policy makers as well as anyone with an interest in the subject to access the latest cutting-edge research and knowledge.

Dr Janet Rose, Principal of Norland, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Professor Colwyn Trevarthen as well as many other experts to Norland to contribute to our second annual research conference. The field of homebased childcare is not very well understood in research terms and yet it is such a critical aspect of our lives in shaping our development and our future selves. At Norland, we are in the unique position to be able to apply almost 130 years of pioneering expertise in training childcare practitioners and working with children and families to much-needed research in this area. Our growing research portfolio is yet another major step in our journey towards our ambition to become the first specialist early years university in the world.”

Professor Theodora Papatheodorou, Research Fellow and Editor of the Norland Journal of Educare Research, added: “I’m delighted to be leading research activities at such a high-quality and unique institution as Norland. This year’s research conference is jam packed with the very latest insights and knowledge from child and student learning-focused research, for both the child and the student are at the heart of Norland’s educational provision. It is of particular pleasure to welcome Professor Colwyn Trevarthen, who with his talk on the ‘joy and pride for play with friends from birth’, invites us to re-think play and playfulness and the role of affectionate play companions in helping babies and infants to discover and make sense of themselves.”

The conference and journal announcements come at an exciting time for Norland, which has just celebrated winning gold at the Whatuni Student Choice Awards for enhanced graduate outcomes, beating many other universities to the top spot. Norland is a TEF Gold-rated institution – the highest standard possible for undergraduate teaching and learning in the UK – and holds taught degree awarding powers, which were granted by the Privy Council in 2019.

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