We have an idea for an experiment we'd like children to help us with. What happens next? Once our plans have been approved by our Ethics Committee, we contact head teachers to invite them to participate in ReadOxford. We let them know what the experiment involves (information like what the children will be doing and how many children we'd like to see). This information is detailed in a Schools Information Sheet which is sent to schools who register a potential interest in participating in a project. We produce one of these for each new piece of research we carry out at ReadOxford.
If a school is able to host us, our next step is to send a Participant Information Sheet to parents of children attending the school. This contains all the information a parent might need before deciding whether they would like their child to take part in our research. Taking part is entirely voluntary. For some studies, parents are asked to return a form if their child would like to take part; sometimes (and with the agreement of our Ethics Committee and the school) parents are asked to return a form only if they'd prefer for their child not to take part. Parents are very welcome to contact us to discuss the research at anytime.
On an agreed date, we come to the school, usually in the morning, and set up our equipment. Sometimes this is straightforward and there's just one of us. At other times we might bring more specialised equipment such as our eye-tracker, as described here. We always work closely with class teachers to choose a convenient time to work that fits around classroom routines and activities. We enjoy working with teachers and schools. We see our research as an active collaboration and we are very grateful to the many teachers who support our research.
We are then ready for our first volunteer! We assign them an anonymous participant number to make sure that any personal information is kept confidential. We usually begin with some fun activities that involve reading as this helps us gauge what level each child is working at. Depending on the experiment, we might ask them to read while we monitor their eye movements using our eye tracker, or they may play a word game on a computer. Children nearly always enjoy participating in our research. Usually we work together for about 15 minutes, sometimes just once, sometimes over a few different sessions. At the end we present each volunteer with a certificate, thanking them for helping us to understand how people learn.
When we've seen all our volunteers at school it's back to ReadOxford to discover what we've found. We send a summary of our findings to schools and are always happy to share our findings with parents. We'll also be posting our findings on the ReadOxford site, so watch this space!