| February 14, 2014

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Research project – Report
This assessment involves two tasks: first you need to carry out one of Piaget’s experiments with a child in your environment. The second involves writing a report about your research and findings. More specific:
Part 1: The experiment
As we have already seen Piaget carried out lots of different experiments with children of different ages, in order to construct a theory about their thinking at different ages/stages. For the purposes of this assessment you have to select one of his experiments and do it with a child in your environment. The experiment you select will depend on the child’s age (you need to use an age appropriate experiment). If the child is younger than 1 then you need to carry out the experiment about ‘object permanence’. If the child is older than that (2-7) you need to carry out one of the conservation experiments. The lecture and seminar on Piaget’s theory focus on these experiments and propose some internet links (youtube) that you can follow to watch them. Please revisit these resources and remind yourself of each of these experiments before making your final decision.
The aim of this exercise is to test an aspect of Piaget’s theory, namely the argument that some of his experiments under-estimated children’s understandings and abilities. Therefore by carrying out the experiment yourself, you will be able to assess whether Piaget was right or wrong about the abilities of children of certain ages.
To put it shortly, the purpose of your assessment is to prove or disprove a theory. This is what research is about and you will thus be carrying out some research (collecting real life data) in order to confirm or challenge Piaget’s claims. At this, first stage (carrying out the experiment) you will be collecting data. As you carry out the experiment with the child make sure that you keep some notes of his/her responses. You will need these later, when writing your report.
Part 2: The report
After collecting your data you need to present these in a report. A research report does exactly what the name suggests: it reports the process and findings of a finished piece of research. Your report will consist of different parts (as all reports do). These are:
Abstract (100 words)
The Abstract is a brief summary of all the parts of the report. You need to give a brief account of the theory you are testing, the methodology, findings and whether your findings confirm or challenge the theory. It is better to write this last, when you have a clear idea of the info you have included in each part of your report. But, it needs to be presented first (this should be your first section in the finished report).
Introduction (400 words)
The purpose of Introduction is to give your reader some understanding, or else the background of the THEORY you will be testing. Therefore you need to select and present the parts of the theory that you want to investigate. The first paragraph of your Introduction could briefly introduce Piaget’s claims about children’s learning and understandings at different ages (his assumption that children’s understandings become more sophisticated and complex with age).
Then you need to start focusing on the specific age/developmental stage you will be assessing. The second paragraph of your Introduction will thus need to progressively focus on the specific skill/understanding that you are looking into by carrying out your experiment (object permanence or conservation) and explain what this is about, what Piaget said about the children that get it right/wrong and why this is. In other words your second paragraph will present the thought process you will be investigating and will explain to your reader what Piaget said about it. As you do so you need to consult books and cite references.
Then in the third paragraph you need to present some of the criticisms (other theorists believing that perhaps Piaget’s findings are flawed because the language he used in his experiments was not sufficiently child friendly. Therefore at this point you are giving your reader an account of the ambiguity in this area (disagreements regarding children’s actual abilities). Here, also, you need to use published sources in order to reference your ideas.
Finally, in your last paragraph you need to briefly explain to your reader what it is that you are trying to find out and then state your research questions.
Research questions: These come at the end of your Introduction and state what you are trying to find out. You could have a research question that asks an open question (for example: are five year old children able to conserve number, according to Piaget’s claims? Or, Was Piaget right in believing that 4 year olds cannot conserve quantity? Or, Can 1 year olds understand object permance, as Piaget thought? Etc)
Alternatively you may want to have a hypothesis instead of a question. Hypotheses make a prediction, rather than asking an open question. For example, instead of saying ‘can 4 year olds conserve quantity…’ you would need to rephrase this into: ‘4 year olds cannot conserve quantity…’.
Both, research questions and hypotheses are appropriate, so you can use any. Just make sure you include a research question or hypothesis at the end of your Introduction, as this leads your reader to the second part of your report.
Methodology (400 words)
This part refers to everything that you did (your course of action). You need to present to your reader all the actions/procedures that you followed. Methodology means ‘talking about your ways of arriving at your findings’. This section needs to include the following information, preferably presented under these headings:
Participants: In a couple of sentences you need to give some info about your participant(s). How old is s/he? What is the gender and socio-economic background?
Material: What material did you use? Did you have three glasses of different sizes (for the conservation of quantity experiment)? Did you use a blanket and a dummy (for the object permanence experiment)? In other words you need to present a list of all the materials that you used, including your pen and paper.
Ethics: Here you need to give your reader some info about the procedures that you took in order to make your study ethical. Did you seek somebody’s consent in order to carry out research with the child? If yes, how did you seek consent (by phone, letter, face to face with parents)? What did you ask them and what did you agree with them? Did you inform the child about the procedure? Did you make sure that the child did not express any signs of discomfort or distress? Are you protecting the identity of the child (anonymity)? These are the points you need to discuss in your Ethics.
Design: All you need to write here is that this was an experiment (or a replication of one of Piaget’s experiments) with one participant.
Procedure: In this section you need to explain what you did, from beginning to end. As you write this imagine that your reader does not know anything about this type of experiment and will need to get sufficient information in order to replicate your study. Did you first help the child familiarise with you and then introduce you materials? Did you ask the child to do/say something? Did you then change the order of things and asked the child again to confirm …. etc, etc.
Generally speaking, all the parts of your Methodology must give sufficient detail in order to make the study replicable (or else, in order to enable anybody who reads our report to repeat the whole study – with different participants).
Results (100 – 200 words)
In this section you present your findings. In other words you give a clear account of the child’s responses and behaviours during the experiment. Did the child initially state that the two glasses contained the same water? Did the child’s view of the quantities changed when the content of one glass was poured in a different glass (shorter/wider)? What did the child say when you asked each question, etc?
At this point you try to give your reader a clear picture of the child’s behaviours, but you are not examining whether these prove or disprove the theory yet. Or else, you are not referring to the background theory at this stage. You just give a picture of the child’s performance.
Discussion (400 words)
At this point you need to examine whether your findings (results) prove or disprove the theory you attempted to test. This is a significant section because it links theory and findings (it makes links between the theory you presented in Introduction and the findings that you presented in your Results). In the first paragraph of your Discussion you need to briefly remind your reader of what you attempted to test (whether children can conserve quantity at the age of 4, for example). You can briefly revisit Piaget’s claims about this issue, citing references (perhaps the same references you used in your Introduction, when presenting Piaget’s claims).
Then, in your second paragraph you need to briefly revisit your findings and link them to the theory. What was it that you found? How did the child perform the task? Did s/he seem to understand that the quantity of liquids remained the same, or changed, when the content of one glass was poured in another glass of a different size? Did the child explain that now the liquid is more/less because it looks taller/shorter? What do these findings signify for the theory? In other words, at this point you examine the theoretical significance of your findings with reference to your initial research questions. Or else, at this point you give a direct answer to the questions you set out to explore (see end of Introduction).
Then, in your following paragraph you need to assess how significant your findings are and any possible limitations. Perhaps it is not reasonable to expect that findings from one child can actually prove or disprove a theory, as the sample is too small and unrepresentative (your child does not represent ALL children of this age. In order to have representative findings your sample/participants would need to include many more children). This is one of your study’s limitations, which you need to present here. Secondly, perhaps your wording/ways of carrying out the experiment might have some limitations. You need to reflect on these and state your limitations. To put it simply, the purpose of this paragraph is to present the limitations of your study (all studies have their limitations, so it is better to present and admit these yourself).
Finally, in your last paragraph you can present some ideas for future research. Is this an interesting area of study? If you were to continue research in this area, what sorts of themes/ideas would you like to investigate? Would it be interesting to examine a larger number of children, for example? Would it be meaningful to make some comparisons between children of different ages, or genders, or cultures? You need to consider how you could expand this study. Be creative.
List of references
Here you need to present, in bullet points and in alphabetical order, all the sources you have used in your Introduction and in your Discussion. You need at least 3 sources (academic).
Total word count
Here you need to present your total word count. Remember, the list of references is not included in the word count but the text references are.
Also, it would be preferable to include a word count for each part of your report.
The following is a checklist you can use whilst writing your report to make sure you have included all the necessary info in each section.
Checklist for research report
After writing your report check whether all the necessary information is there. Read the checklist and tick all the boxes.
Have I clearly explained all the parts of this project? Have I included information concerning the theory, aims, methods, results and conclusions?
Have I presented Piaget’s general assumptions (about learning in stages) in the first paragraph?
Have I explained Piaget’s specific claims about the developmental stage I am researching? Have I explained his experiments that relate to the thought process I am investigating? Have I explained what he found and how this led him to construct a theory about children’s learning and understanding at this age/developmental stage?
Have I explained my aims and my research question or hypothesis?
Have I used different sources (academic books)? Have I cited text references for all of those?
Have I divided my method into the following subsections: Participants, Material, Ethics, Design and Procedure?
In the Participants section, have I given info concerning the number of my participants, the age, gender and demographics?
In my Ethics section have I referred to anonymity, protection from harm, informing my participants about the study (consent) and about their right to terminate it whenever they decide?
In my Research tool (or design) section have I explained the method I used to collect my data?
In my Procedure have I described what I did, what I explained to the participants, the ways I asked questions, the order of asking, etc?
Have I given a clear description of my findings, referring to the children’s responses and performance during the experiment? Are my descriptions clear and orderly (saying what the children did/say first, then followed by what, etc)?
Have I double checked that all the information presented here is only a description of what I found and not an explanation of what it means for the theory I want to test?
Have I briefly reminded my reader of the part of the theory I have been testing in this practical (referring to Piaget’s claims and citing appropriate references)?
Have I discussed the significance of my findings for the theory I was testing? Have I stated whether my data support or reject Piaget’s claims?
Have I considered the limitations of my study?
Have I given a couple of ideas for future research?
Have I listed, alphabetically, all the sources that I have used by the surname of authors?
Do my references have the right format (Harvard)?
Have I used text references for all the sources I mentioned?
Have I remained within the word limit in each section of the report? Have I given a word count for each separate section?
Have I paid attention to the grammar, expression and present
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