Below are answers to questions we have encountered in other school systems in which we have worked. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Also, we are flexible on most of the topics covered here, including age range and the amount of time requested for each child participant.
What is the nature of the research?
We are interested in understanding when the concept of self-identity emerges in young children and how their preferences for social groups develop. For example, we are examining children’s initial impressions of social groups they belong to. To do so, we show children pictures of members of different groups, or of people whose group membership is ambiguous. Children then make a variety of judgments about them. For example, who would they most like to play with? Who would be most likely to share with them? To which group does the person belong? In this way, we can explore children’s understanding of and attitudes toward these groups.
What ages would you want to be involved, and how many children would you test?
We are interested in working with children throughout the school age ranges, with a particular focus on preschool and elementary school. One of the challenges of research is working with enough children to be confident our results would generalize to other children. To this end, we try to recruit relatively large numbers of children. A single study may have as many as 100 children participating. While we often fill these large numbers by visiting more than one school, we are delighted to work with as many children as are willing and able to participate.
How long does the research take?
Each session lasts approximately 15 minutes for each child. We sometimes visit schools with two researchers, and can therefore work with two children per session.
What sort of cooperation do you need from the host school?
We come prepared with all materials we need to conduct our research (our studies are generally set up on laptop computers, which we bring). We generally ask for a room or portion of a room that is outside the main traffic areas so that children will not be distracted by friends. This can be anything from a private room to a corner of the library or cafeteria, and we are always happy for teachers or other school staff to observe the procedures.
What time of year would you want to visit?
We would love to come anytime. Our studies are already up and working on our laptops so we are ready to go when it is convenient for you. We generally ask the school to help with the distribution of parental consent materials about 2 weeks before our planned visit to give time for their return.
How do our schools benefit from participation?
We believe that our research will directly contribute to education and society at large by informing our understanding of children’s social development. Beyond this long-term goal, however, we strive to make our research enjoyable for children and educational for the wider community. We are always happy to prepare a presentation for teachers and/or parents to discuss our research. Furthermore, we generally produce a letter for parents and teachers outlining our research questions and results; this is usually distributed a few months after our school visit (at the conclusion of the study). Of course, we are always happy to discuss other ways we can give back to the school community. We are committed to making our research of benefit beyond academia, and any creative ways you can suggest to help us accomplish this goal are very welcome.