People of I-LABS
Vibrant, super-smart and caring: these are just a few of the qualities that describe the dozens of interdisciplinary researchers at I-LABS. Their innovative ideas and technological savviness help drive the Institute’s reputation as a world leader in child development and brain science.
And their kindness, professionalism and sense of humor greet all of the hundreds of families that volunteer each year for studies at I-LABS.
In the “People of I-LABS” series, we get to know the research scientists, post-doctoral fellows and other researchers who make up the elite team at I-LABS.
In this special installment of the series, we speak with two Research Coordinators who spent a year implementing a play-based English language intervention in early learning centers in Madrid, Spain.
Please introduce yourselves. Where do you come from? How did you become involved with I-LABS?
Anna: I am originally from Connecticut and moved to Seattle to go to UW. I was recruited for the first iteration of the Madrid Project from 2015 to 2016. When I came back to Seattle, I finished my degree and kept in touch with I-LABS. Shortly after graduating, I started working at I-LABS as a research assistant on projects they were doing in Seattle.
Bo: I graduated from UW with a BS in Speech and Hearing Sciences in 2015, but throughout my undergraduate years, I spent many quarters at the front desk and various labs within I-LABS as an undergraduate research assistant. That’s how my connection with I-LABS started! Who wouldn’t want to stay when I-LABS sends you to Madrid (twice)!
Please tell us a little bit about the study itself.
Bo: The study was about bilingualism and second language acquisition. Specifically, how do Spanish preschoolers learn English from native English speakers using an online training module and preset curriculum. The intervention involved research base practice that are proven to promote language learning at an early age. We were working to reproduce previous findings as well as test new methods of English instructor training for preschoolers learning English as a second language.
Anna: The most recent Madrid study consisted of training 21 UW students and recent graduates and distributing them between 7 schools across the city of Madrid and surrounding towns. The tutors taught English in three 45-minute to 1-hour long sessions each day at their respective schools. During these sessions, tutors would sing songs, read books and play interactive games with the children to boost their language learning.
What were your respective roles in the study?
Anna: I was the “classroom manager” so to speak. I observed how tutors ran their sessions and gave them tips and feedback to improve the quality of their daily sessions. I also made sure that tutors worked well as a team and that they had enough classroom materials to successfully run sessions. Lastly, I helped to organize and implement data collection throughout the school year.
Bo: I did anything from manipulating spreadsheets for data analysis to administering testing measures and substituting in the classrooms for absent tutors. We were tasked with doing RA work in both senses (Research Assistant and Resident Advisor).
What was your most significant accomplishment in Madrid?
Anna: One of my most significant accomplishments in Madrid was communicating with the parents at various schools and explaining the study to them in a second language!
Bo: I was able to make Madrid my home for 10 months. My most significant accomplishment in Madrid was creating and executing a plan for the collection of final measures in the schools.
What was your favorite part about working on this study?
Anna: I loved seeing how the work that we did in 2015 and 2016 laid the ground work for this most recent study. I loved being able to pass on what I learned from my experiences working with children during the first study!
Bo: I loved being able to witness the growth and development of not only the preschoolers in the study, but the language tutors as well. I expected to see significant learning in the preschoolers, but it was so amazing to see so many UW recent graduates and current undergraduates learn and grow as people. Nothing brings people closer together than an experience like conducting research in a foreign country.
Tell us about a memorable experience you had working with the children.
Anna: One of my most memorable experiences was when I was helping out in a classroom and one of the children came up to me and started listing different vegetables in English! I was so impressed and happy to see how proud he was of knowing those vegetable words!
Bo: Being in the role I was in, there was never a lot of consistent in classroom interaction with the children. It’s always a wonderful feeling when you get the privilege of spending an hour with the child and have reports from the language tutors that a child remembers your presence.
What do you miss the most about living in Spain?
Anna: I miss the fact that there is always something fun going on! Be it a music festival, a concert in the city center, or just street performers, Spaniards know how to have a good time!
Bo: FOOD! Everything is so cheap and delicious. Who can pass up a freshly baked loaf of bread for less than 50 cents! PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION! Getting around is so incredibly easy and affordable.