The Child Observation Suite is housed within the School of Psychology.
The Child Observation Suite is a large observation room with mirrored walls. It is equipped with video and audio recording equipment, an L-shaped researcher room from which to observe, including a fully equipped teaching facility with a video editing suite and remote controls for video cameras. There is also a comfortable and fully equipped waiting room suitable for adults and children.
Most UK Psychology degree programmes and indeed some A-level courses teach students about the research of Mary Ainsworth and her “famous” Strange Situation experiment. For many courses, this will involve descriptions of the work, or the watching of pre-recorded footage. At UCLan’s School of Psychology we endeavour to take the experience a little further and enable students to encounter the research first hand, by replicating the research in our Child Observation Suite. (COS). The Strange Situation is a research study in which researchers attempt to identify the elements of childhood attachment to parents determined by the cultural specific elements of their nurtured behaviour relative to those that are innate behaviours common to all. The most informative way for students to learn about these findings is to replicate the research within the Child Observation Suite (COS). All our Year One students completes a hands-on replication of Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation, exploring differences between children in their levels of attachment via their exploration of the play room, our state-of-the-art observation suite. Our emphasis on experiential learning ensures that students will be able to experience this real-life replication, learning the skills required to react to the challenges of observing a child’s behaviour in a way that simply cannot be conveyed were we, like many other courses, to simply demonstrate the experiment via a DVD.
In the COS students operate the video cameras, code the child’s behaviours and indeed act as the stranger. Thus rather than experience the research the “way that it should be”, our students learn to experience the research “how it is”. Students learn to react to the child, their guardians and parents; to respond to the situations a research study can pose rather than to simply watch, listen and learn from a DVD. The experiences that the student gains, and the techniques they learn from the Strange Situation can then be applied in the observation of medics, educators, athletes, and in many other domains. Indeed, one of the underlying principles of the teaching within the school is that students will learn more, in a more engaging manner, and remember it for longer if they have actively participated in the processes rather than simply and passively been told about it.