Did I Do That Right?
I volunteer in a psychology lab here at McGill, and recently we have begun testing. The first few months I was volunteering, we were doing training every week and running through how everything was to be done. At first I thought the training was overly extensive, but here I am now, one month into testing, wishing I had more time to practice.
Like we learnt in class there are many factors that come into play when running an experiment and conducting testing. One of those factors which is extremely relevant, as I work with children, is establishing rapport. When working with children you want to make sure they feel comfortable, as they are in an unfamiliar environment, because if they don’t, they may decide not to cooperate or even worse, show discomfort.
Another factor that comes into play is informed consent. Both the parents and the children are told everything that will happen in the study. At each different point in the experiment, we explain what we are about to do, if they feel any discomfort they may stop the study, and then we ask them if they understand and if they wish to continue. This is such an important part, that there is a script that we must read from, word for word, to make sure that it is done properly.
The last time we ran the experiment, we had a child who did not understand some of the words when being asked questions. In that type of circumstance we are allowed to reword the questions, using simpler words, as long as it provides the same overall content. The problem in this situation was that when the child was giving answers, she looked up at the experimenter each time as if looking for approval. When this happens, we are not supposed to provide any kind of encouragement, because that provides reinforcement, and can potentially bias the results; however, the experimenter for this study did make a comment along those lines.
Every time we finish conducting the experiment with a child, I always find myself reflecting on the experiment, thinking to myself “did I do everything right”? I think back and wonder if I was friendly with the child, but not overly friendly to the point where I was guiding the answers he, or she, provided, as that would influence the outcome of the study. Had I remembered to read everything properly to the child, and get his, or her, consent for all the activities? Or had I encouraged the child at some points?
Now I understand why extensive training is required before running any experiment, as one little mistake in administering the tests can make the data unusable. If you plan to run your own testing, or even help someone else in theirs, the best advice I can give is to practice, practice, and practice again. It might seem unnecessary, but when you’re in the position where you are administering the test, you will be glad you did.