Developmental Psychology (PSYC 1273) Research Assignment
Due Date: At the beginning of class on due date (see critical path). Make sure to follow
instructions posted online for submission.
Title: Assessing Preoperational and Concrete Operational Thinking in Two Children.
This assignment requires that each student assess two child subjects, a 3- to 5-year-old
and an 8- to 10-year-old, using three different Piagetian tasks (see below). In the event
that there is difficulty locating subjects, two students may together test the same child but
no child can be tested more that once. Also, the tasks must be administered to each child
separately without the other child in the room. Each student is expected to collect and
evaluate their own data, formulate their own report, and write and submit their own
paper. They must carefully note the younger and older child’s responses, compare these
responses, and interpret them in view of Piaget’s work. It is important to understand that
the primary purpose of this assignment is not to prove Piaget’s theory but rather to
reflect on a few of his key concepts using real children as subjects. No matter what the
results, a critical approach is expected and encouraged.
Things to remember when recruiting participants:
1) Request the child’s participation and the parent’s consent but do not use any means of
coercion or undue influence at the time of recruitment.
2) Know the contents of the Information Letter and Informed Consent Form and ensure
that parents are familiar with the contents before allowing them to sign.
Things to remember when testing each child:
1) Introduce yourself to the child and let them know that they are helping you with a
school project. Assure them that there are no right or wrong answers to your
questions; during testing, all answers are accepted and validated;
2) You are assessing, not diagnosing the child;
3) Children progress at different rates so you may find anomalies in a child subject’s
response. For example, the younger child might show conservation skills or the older
child might fail to grasp the concept of conservation;
4) If the child shows any of the following signs of discomfort, ask them if they would
like to stop participating.
– unnecessarily long pauses after being asked to carry out a task or answer a
– excessive fidgeting
– appearing overly tired or frustrated
– asking for their parent
– walking away from the testing situation
– showing signs of fear, anger, or sadness
Even if they say they want to continue, stop the assessment if it is in the best interest of
5) Thank the child and parent(s) for their help.
Conservation Task 1: This is a conservation of matter task. Show the child two identical
balls of clay. Ask the child if they are the same and adjust the balls until the child agrees
that they are. Now roll one ball into a long, narrow shape. Ask the child if both pieces of
clay have the same amount or if one has more. If the child thinks one has more, ask
which one. Have the child justify the judgment of there being the same or a different
amount. Record all responses.
Conservation Task 2: This is a conservation of liquid task. Pour an identical amount of
juice or coloured water into two identical clear glasses. Ask the child if the two glasses
have the same amount, and adjust the volume in each glass until the child agrees that both
have the same amount. Now pour the liquid from one of these glasses into a taller,
thinner clear glass. Ask the child if the amount of juice is the same in both glasses or if
one has more. If the child says that one has more, ask which one. Have the child justify
the judgment of there being the same or a different amount of liquid in the two glasses.
Record all responses.
Egocentrism Task (Level 1): Take three identical sheets of heavy paper and place a
picture of a different object on each of the six sides. Show the child each side of the three
sheets of paper and ask them to label the object they see. Once you are satisfied that the
child can name the objects, pick up one of the double-sided pictures and hold it up so the
child sees one side and the other side is facing you. Ask the child what they see and then
ask them what they think you see. Repeat with the remaining two double-sided pictures.
Record all responses.
Egocentrism Task (Level 2): Place one of the double-sided sheets flat on the surface
between you and the child so that it is facing them (i.e., right side-up for them). Ask the
child how they see the picture. Ask the child how you see the picture. Record their
response. Repeat with two more pictures, for a total of three pictures and responses.
Each student will submit an 8-page, double-spaced paper with sub-headed
Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion sections. The paper must also
include a Title page, Reference page, and Appendices (containing the signed Free and
Informed Consent Forms and depictions of the objects used in the classification tasks).
The essay topic was developed to help students 1) gain experience in conducting
psychological research using human subjects; 2) understand Piagetian terminology, key
concepts, and processes; 3) further develop critical thinking skills; and 4) understand the
ethical practices involved when research engages human subjects.
Students are expected to review lecture and text material before approaching the families
of potential child subjects. After receiving written parental consent, they will proceed to
separately assess the 3- to 5-year-old child and 8- to10-year-old child. The completed
essay will be well-organized and well-written, with important terms like “operations”,
“conservation”, “centration”, “classification”, etc. fully defined. Ideally, students will
view their findings with a critical lens.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with and procedures for research
involving human subjects, child subjects must not be identified in the final research
report. Pseudonyms can be used to refer to the children Any material identifying a child
or their family, including rough notes, are to be handed in along with the completed
essay. These materials will be destroyed by
This assignment is worth 25% and will be graded out of 25 points, assigned as follows:
4 – for a well-written Introduction section where 1) Piaget’s theory
is efficiently outlined, particularly the difference between pre-
operational and concrete operational thinking and 2) the
intention of the author(s) is clear;
3 – for a succinct Method section;
3 – for a clear Results section;
6 – for a thoughtful Discussion section;
2 – for an appropriate Conclusion section;
4 – for defining all relevant terms and concepts in the context of the
paper and using them appropriately.
1 – for complete Appendices;
2 – for grammar and spelling