An Investigation into Schools and Research: Part 2

By Liverpool YPAG,

Part 2: Using a Personal Development lesson to introduce teaching about research

I worked on 3 different ways to teach research during a set time of 40 minutes for a Personal Development lesson: (i) an active involvement task; (ii) a debate-based lesson; and (iii) a presentation in the school hall. These three methods use discussion, kinetic learning and listening as ways to learn about Research Methods and Ethics. This is when I started to act upon my thoughts and approached the Personal Development head in my school, and asked if I could use Year 12’s (lower sixth) personal development times to teach research. To my surprise, the teacher was very excited and he helped me to plan the lessons and times and spread the word to teachers that I was doing this. It was so very exciting.

In one 40 minute lesson slot, I had a group of volunteers from each form class to involve themselves in a ‘chocolate trial’, which was inspired by what I had seen in a science fair in London. They were taught the process of recruitment, information leaflets and consent forms, as well as randomisation. I explained to the group in the information leaflet that the trial was to see which chocolate was better for you, and that they would each have a piece of chocolate and rate the chocolate. I informed them that they don’t have to involve themselves in the trial if they don’t want to, and that they could drop out of the trial if they felt uncomfortable. By the end of the trial they had learnt about the process that every trial has to conform to. What was very interesting was learning their opinions before and after the trial. At the beginning, as they were being handed their information leaflets, they were asking me questions about the ‘treatment’ and suggested that I would be giving them chocolate that would taste disgusting or that they would be forced to do something unpleasant. At the end of the trial, they were happy to know that trials aren’t forceful and that children and young people would be essential to know that the chocolate was good for children as well as adults. In part 3, I’ll describe what I did next.