What are the relative weaknesses and strengths of correlational research as opposed to experimental research? Under what conditions would a psychologist choose one method as opposed to the other?
When using correlational studies, one must understand that correlation does not mean causation. One cannot the infer the direction of the relationship between two variables (A causes B), only the strength of the relationship (A is highly correlated with B or B is inversely correlated with A). For example, the global average temperature rise is highly correlated with the number of pirates over the past 200 years. Does this mean one caused the other (pirates cause global warming or vice-versa?) absolutely not! It just tells us there is a positive relationship between the two variables. Correlational research can be useful, however! When trying to describe the relationship between two variables, such as investigating the relationship between parenting style and childhood attachment. While we cannot say for sure that a specific type of parenting style leads to a specific type of childhood attachment, there is a high correlation between the two. This helps us predict what types of behaviors we are likely to see when observing specific parenting styles. If we wanted to determine causation for the above case, we would have to use what is known as experimental research. Experimental research can determine causation. In order to determine whether parenting style causes a specific attachment style, we would need to create experimental groups of different parenting styles, including a control group, to determine the nature of the relationship. Unfortunately, with psychological research many variables cannot be measured (e.g. cognitions) and therefore determining causality can be tricky. Without discrete measurement we cannot say for sure that A causes B- so correlational research is often used within this field.
Discuss the relationship between socio-economic status and speech development in youngsters.
The correlation between socio-economic status (SES) and speech development is a complex one. However, language gaps have been observed between children from high SES families versus low SES families. By age two, individuals from low SES families lag behind by six months in language development. This is likely due to an interaction of a variety of factors including the following: exposure to language throughout the day, pre and postnatal health, early educational opportunities, parental education. For example, individuals who come from low SES families may have parents that work a majority of the time. Individuals from higher SES families may have the option of staying home with their child. Through this, children with parents home throughout the day may simply be exposed to more language than a child whose parent is working. In addition, parents who are highly educated are able to find higher paying jobs, allowing them to afford more educational opportunities for their child. While this is a concerning trent, there are programs in place to combat the language gap. Early education programs such as head start are available to low income families to specifically combat the learning gap. There, individuals are provided with schooling, free lunch to support children before they reach elementary school
What impact has educational policies such as NCLB and ESEA had on testing culture within the United States?
According to the New York Times nearly 20% of all third thru eighth grade students in New York ‘opted out’ of standardized testing in 2015. This can have far reaching implications for educators, as the United States government uses standardized testing to track the progress of public school students across the nation. Currently, increases in educational accountability created by federal and state legislatures, place pressure on schools, teachers, and students. The United States government has played a role in perpetuating a high stakes testing culture within its schools. Tests are considered high stakes when their outcomes are used to make important educational decisions and have been used since the 1965 authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). During this time, students were required to take aptitude tests in order to graduate from high school but there were no consequences for schools or teachers if their students performed poorly. This type of testing was known as minimum competency testing, which some suggested promoted low standards for students at the time. In response to minimum competency tests, the 1983 National Commission on Education published A Nation at Risk. This report called for the end of minimum competency testing, and claimed that an increase in high-stakes testing as well as raising national education standards would improve the nation’s student’s achievement level. The report’s statistical analysis of educational failure was deemed as controversial, however the impact that this report had on future educational policy was large. In 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, the seventh reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was signed into law, effectively raising the stakes of standardized testing in public school settings. NCLB was meant as a means to increase the quality of education for public school students by requiring schools to continuously improve their performance from year to year. Under NCLB, all schools that received federal funding were required to implement annual exams for all students in order to demonstrate improved performance. Students from elementary to high school were required to take annual statewide achievement tests in the areas of reading and math from grades three through eight and once in high school. Prior to NCLB, statewide testing was required to analyze student performance, but poor performance resulted in little to no consequence for schools. Once NCLB was implemented, schools that did not demonstrate yearly progress in test scores faced several consequences: (1) provide free supplemental education or transportation for students to other schools, (2) replace all faculty, or (3) close the school entirely. NCLB aimed to make all public school students proficient in math and reading by the end of the 2013-14 school year. Based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress report (NAEP, 2015), 65% of all fourth-grade students and 64% of all eighth-grade students fell below proficiency for reading in 2013. For math, 58% of all fourth-grade students and 64% of all eighth-grade students fell below proficiency. In response to states not meeting the 2013-2014 targets, the United States government offered relief from consequences of not meeting adequate yearly progress in the form of waivers. To receive a waiver, states were required to adopt new educational standards, develop a plan to improve the bottom 15% of schools within the state, and create teacher and principal evaluation systems based on multiple measures, which include student progress. Some argued that this program was a violation of separation of powers within the United States government, and called for the federal government to have a smaller role in educational policy at a federal level. In response to growing concerns about the federal governments extensive role in educational policy, in 2015 the United States Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015), effectively ending NCLB, and reportedly moving away from a test and punish mentality. The act moves responsibilities such as determining curriculum, standards, and accountability requirements, from the federal government to the state level. States are no longer held accountable to federal testing standards and instead must create their own academic standards and goals. Yearly testing is still required under this act in order to check for progress; however, the consequence for a lack of progress is decided by the state. Additionally, states may administer a full summative test during the school year or break the test up into smaller subtests over the course of the year. ESSA is set to go into effect in the 2017-2018 school year and while this law appears to give more power to state legislatures in how they assess their students, it is unclear what impact it will have on schools, teachers, and students in regards to educational accountability.