Thursday, October 27, 2016

Turner's "E Is For Empathy: Sesame Workshop Takes A Crack At Kindness" and the K is for Kindness survey.

This NPR story is about a survey conducted by the folks at Sesame Street. And that survey asked parents and teachers about kindness. If kids are kind, if the world is kind, how they define kindness, etc..

The NPR story is a round about way of explaining how we operationalize variables, especially in psychology. And the survey itself provides examples of forced choice research questions and dichotomous responses that could have been Likert-type scales.

The NPR Story:

The Children's Television Workshop, the folks behind Sesame Street, have employees in charge of research and evaluation (a chance to plug off-the-beat-path stats jobs to your students). And they did a survey to figure out what it means to be kind when you are a kid. They surveyed parents and teachers to do so.

The main findings are summarized here. Parents and teachers are worried that the world isn't kind and doesn't emphasize kind. But both groups think that kindness is more important than academic achievement. 

But the groups differ in how they operationalize the multi-faceted construct of kindness. Parents emphasize manners as an important component of kindness while teachers emphasize empathy over manners.

Also, teachers think the kids are alright. They are more likely to indicate that all or most of their students are kind than parents are to indicate that their own child is kind.

The NPR story is a nice audio piece you could use in class that describes how parents and teachers differ in how the define kindness (is it thougtfulness? Are manners necessary for kindness? Is thoughtfulness necessary for manners?). This could also be a useful example of other psychology research that collects data from both parents and children when evaluating children (for example, some of Duckworth's Grit research asks for both parental and teach evaluation of a child's grittiness).

The actual survey and survey results from The Children's Television Workshop.

1) They feature your favorite Sesame Street friends.
2) They illustrate data, forced choice questions, margin of error, etc.

Here is a link to the original survey. You can take the survey if you are a parent or teacher. Anyone can view the original results as well.

The website also includes survey methodology, including margin of error and confidence intervals.
As a parent, I took the survey. Most of the questions are forced choice.

And some of those forced choice questions could be changed into a Likert-type scale. What might be the advantages to changing the response scale? What kind of analyses can you perform with a dichotomous response that you couldn't perform with a Likert-type response?

How to use in class:
-The NPR story describes how people may differ in a definition of kindness.
-The Sesame Street survey website includes a methods section.
-The survey includes forced choice questions. You could discuss how and why you may want to frame one of these questions with a Likert-type scale.