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Lecture 2

Week 2 Readings

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Lisa Dack

Studying Children’s Development  Research Designs o Research Design: The plan or structure of an investigation which is determined by the investigator’s research question o The first step in any study is to pick a question. The researcher then reads existing research on their topic to create a hypothesis (A statement derived from theory that has not yet been tested). o The researcher is examining associations between two or more variables referred to as:  Independent Variable: The behavior or characteristic believed to influence a particular outcome or result.  Dependent Variable: The measurable outcome or result in a research study. o The most used research designs are: single-subject cases, correlational studies, longitudinal studies, cross- sectional studies, cross-sequential studies, and experimental interventions.  They differ with complexity, efficiency, and the kinds of questions they can answer. o Case Study: An in-depth investigation of one person or small group of individuals. They provide useful information about an aspect of development (such as language, or cognition).  Some of the earliest discoveries about children’s development have been based on case studies.  A problem with case studies is that it is difficult to make generalizations because the findings may be unique to the individual. Another problem is that there may be observer-bias, which is when the researcher focuses more on certain aspects of development than others. o Correlational Studies: A widely used design for research studying what different factors influence one another or go together. Such studies are not able to test cause-and-effect hypotheses. They tell us which factors influence or are associated in a positive or negative way.  Correlation Co-efficient: The statistic that measures the strength between two measures. Expressed in a positive or negative ratio between -1.0 and +1.0  If the two variables are unrelated, the correlation would be around 0.  A positive correlation does not mean that there will be a causal relationship (When the results of a study indicate there is a systematic cause-and-effect result between two factors). o Longitudinal Study: A study that collects different types of data on a regular basis and tracks the development of a group of children over a number of years.  They can provide valuable information about individual development over time. One is able to see how early events can impact later development. They allow researchers to identify differences in behavior at different points of development. It is also to determine the stability of behaviors  There are problems with these studies too. They are expensive and take a long time to complete. The subjects may become aware of what methods they are being tested with. The final results must also be considered in relation to when the study was completed. o Cross-Sectional Study: A study that gathers information simultaneously on one or more aspects of development among children of different age groups. Each age group must choose children of similar ethnic background, gender, socioeconomic background, among other things. Before drawing any conclusions, the researcher would make sure that results are similar for other ethnic groups.  They are useful for establishing age norms (the age at which certain characteristics emerge).  There are still some disadvantages to cross- sectional studies. It doesn’t measure changes in behavior over time, so it makes an estimate as to what the changes could be. They cannot provide information on early determinants of behavior. Also the participants for each age group must be carefully selected to make sure the only difference is age. It also cannot figure out the stability of behavior over time. o Cross-Sequential Study: A study that follows a group of different-aged children for 2 to 3 years. It can reliably identify antecedents and stability of behavior patterns during the course of the study. Tends to be more efficient than cross-sectional studies. Although there are many advantages to them, they are not used very often. o Experimental Study: Participants are randomly selected and assigned to a group (experimental or control). They then receive a treatment or intervention of some kind. This is presumed to cause a behavior or outcome. In one group they receive the treatment, and the other doesn’t. If there I a significant difference between the two groups then the treatment caused the behavior, which supports the hypothesis.  Sometimes it is not possible to randomly assign students to a group, in these cases a quasi- experimental design (a type of research design that utilizes comparison groups without random assignment. Also known as causal-comparative design) is used. o Action Research: Research conducted by teachers, administrators, and other change agents in the school to improve the educational environment for their students. The goal of a
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