Research policies and participation

Research is a primary purpose of the school, and families who attend the school are expected to consider participating in the various research projects that are conducted throughout the year. Faculty and graduate students from the Institute of Child Development or other departments within the University design these projects.

Observation booths are located adjacent to each classroom. These booths are used by graduate students and faculty conducting naturalistic observations and by students enrolled in undergraduate courses in Child Psychology or Education, as well as parents and community people. Although the booths are small, parents are welcome to observe at any time classes are in session. Name and time of entry should be indicated on the forms provided inside the observation booths. These forms are used to tabulate the profile of observers and to provide other pertinent statistics.

At the beginning of the school year, parents are asked to sign a permission slip allowing their child to participate in the research program. For certain research projects, the staff may feel that this general permission is not adequate. In that event, parents are requested to sign another form allowing their child to participate in a specific research project. Parents may opt out of specific projects if they choose to do so.

While parents may request that their child not participate in a particular research project, it is expected that all parents of enrolled children will consider each project and that all children will be participants in studies involving observation.

The procedure for involving children from the school is as follows:

  1. Faculty members/graduate students write a summary of the proposed research.
  2. The proposal is approved by the University Committee on the Use of Human Subjects and by Sheila Williams Ridge, Director of the program.
  3. The Lab School teachers then review the proposal.
  4. Once approved, the researcher spends several class periods getting to know the children in the group.
  5. After the children are familiar with the researcher, they may be invited to a research room adjacent to the Lab School or remain in the classroom to participate in a project. Projects usually consist of playing a game, answering questions or completing a task. Researchers are not interested in singling out performances of individual children, but rather in-group performance, e.g., how three-year-olds follow directions. Children always have the right to say “no” to participating.

It is expected that most children will participate in some sort of research project by the end of the year. However, the welfare and comfort of any child is foremost. Most children do seem to enjoy this novel experience. A list is kept of how often each child participates and it is posted in the classroom. Before studies are initiated, a summary (i.e., Request for Research Population) is sent home through the children’s folders. These summaries are distributed in advance to all families in the participating classrooms. All studies are also posted on the Parent Bulletin Board, which is located in the Lab School hallway. Parents having questions, concerns or wishing to opt out of a specific study may contact their child’s teacher, the Program Director, or the faculty member conducting the project. Parents will also be informed each time their child participates in a (non-observational) research project through their child’s daily folder.

All individuals (i.e., teachers, students, faculty and researchers) having contact with the children have had criminal background checks conducted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and complete a confidentiality statement.