Language and Pedagogy Laboratory

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Faculty Research Interview with the Director of the Language and Pedagogy Laboratory (LPL), Dr Derek Irwin:

Please tell us about the lab 
The Language and Pedagogy Laboratory (LPL) brings together a number of strands of research that are predominantly found within the School of Education and English, but also shared with colleagues in the Centre for English Language Education and Language Centre, while affording quite a few collaborations with International Communications and International Studies, as the main examples. Since nearly everyone in the university is involved in teaching, and most of us use language, the Lab is a place where anyone wanting to do research in these areas (and potentially also how they intersect) is most welcome. We have a sophisticated eye tracking station and state of the art experimental classroom for data collection, and then 6 high performance workstations with qualitative and quantitative analysis software, including key translation and interpreting programmes for researchers in that area.
What inspired you and your colleagues to establish the lab? 
When we merged the Schools of Education and English in September 2019, there were many strands of very excellent research going on but not a clear way to bring them together, or at least house them under one roof, as it were. However, we were quite committed to collaboration where possible, and so at our Research Away Day we brainstormed various ways to do this, and one of the major ideas was building on the previous success of the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics which had attempted to do the same for the previous School of English. Instead of a more virtual Centre, though, we felt we needed a physical space where colleagues could house various projects and enable Research Assistants a place to work, and so the idea for the Language and Pedagogy Lab was built from that.
How many colleagues work in the lab? Do you work with other Chinese or international collaborators?
The LPL was officially launched in March 2023, and all of the members of EdEn are members. We currently house a Li Dak Sum Innovation Grant team working on a lexical glossing algorithm for language learning, which comprises two members of staff, two doctoral students and four undergraduates from both EdEn and Computer Science; the experimental classroom space has been used to record lectures, seminars and performances as both data and for instruction. We currently are part of three external grant bids, one of which is with a colleague from IC and an external
collaborator, one with colleagues from Ningbo and Zhuhai, and one on eye tracking with both domestic and international collaborators. There are other projects at various stages of planning, and we always welcome new ideas!
What is the primary area of research? 
As the name implies, projects involving various aspects of language (in areas of Applied Linguistics or Translation and Interpreting) and pedagogy (across all disciplines) are welcome – and as we are operating in an EMI institution in China, there are many possible intersections of these areas. 
Tell us about your most recent research project?
As touched on above, the major project right now is the LDS Innovation Grant for research into “Incidental EFL Vocabulary Learning with Personalized Gloss System.” This involves the development of an algorithm with which to power extensive reading in an L2 by providing ideal glosses depending on the level of the reader. The space has been invaluable in housing the team developing the system, as it requires substantial data collection first in the self-reporting of known vocabulary by hundreds of respondents, and then calibration of ideal attention measurements with the eye-tracker to empirically test the kinds of variables which will allow for personalization of the glossing. 
What are your plans for the future? 
We will be using the experimental classroom for various kinds of data collection, including intervention studies and action research, as well as the development of online materials on exemplary teaching practices. In addition, The Language and Pedagogy Laboratory welcomes ideas for new projects, and we would be very excited to house collaborations which cut across disciplinary lines.