Pilot Study

In May 2011, Claire Fox and 2nd year Psychology student, Lucy James, were awarded a British Psychological Society (BPS) Undergraduate Research Assistantship bursary of £1600 to pilot the process of data collection, prior to embarking on the ESRC-funded longitudinal study. The aim of the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme is to provide up to 10 researchers with the opportunity to provide an undergraduate with ‘hands on’ experience of research during the summer vacation, to gain an insight into scientific research and to encourage them to consider an academic career. The project must provide real benefits to the student and give them tangible training and career development support. The BPS scheme is a prestigious award that marks Lucy out as a future researcher and potential academic. In the award letter, the Chair of the BPS Research Board stated that the application had been identified as ‘exceptional’.

During June and July 2011, Claire and Lucy visited one local secondary school. In total, 215 children in years 7 and 8 completed the measures on a whole class basis. Lucy was responsible for getting all of the materials copied and ready for the school visits. A few weeks later Lucy and Claire also had the opportunity to prepare and deliver two teaching sessions on research methods to a group of A-level Psychology students in the school using the data they had collected. This was a way of giving something back to the school in return for their assistance with the pilot study. In addition, Lucy was responsible for collating the pupils’ responses to the peer report questions and for all of the data inputting. Claire and Lucy analysed the data together using SPSS and this gave Lucy experience of a range of statistical tests including reliability analyses, factor analysis, t-tests and correlations.

Lucy gained valuable experience in: 1) the ethics of conducting research with children and young people in schools (in particular, the use of peer reports), 2) the development of questionnaires for children and young people (and other materials, e.g. letters to parents, instructions, debriefing), 3) collecting data from children in schools (within a whole class setting), 4) data inputting, 5) data analysis (using SPSS), 6) the application of a wide variety of statistical tests, and 7) the presentation of research findings (in poster format). Lucy also gained an in-depth understanding of the social and developmental psychology of humour and generated numerous ideas for her final year project which will involve developing a child HSQ for younger children.

Lucy is due to present the findings in poster form at the annual BPS conference in London in April 2012. Together Claire and Lucy produced a second poster, presented at the BPS Developmental Section Conference in September 2011. The presentation may be downloaded from our Presentations page.

The pilot study has been incredibly useful prior to embarking on the ESRC funded longitudinal study.

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