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Schools and kindergartens

Voluntary participation

Although school/kindergarten is a mandatory arena for children, parents and employees, participation in research should always be voluntary. Thus, a request to participate should be directed in such a way that the persons asked do not feel any pressure. This may be done by emphasizing that whether they want to participate or not will not have any effect on their relations with the school/kindergarten. Furthermore, alternative arrangements should be offered to those who do not wish to participate. This is particularly relevant for instance when children are to fill out a questionnaire during school hours, or when conducting audio/video recordings in a school setting.

When children are to actively participate in a research project, participation is always voluntary for the child, even if the parents have agreed to the child’s participation. This entails that the child should receive adapted information, and that the researcher must obtain the child's consent during data collection. Accordingly, the researcher undertaking data collection should have sufficient expertise to adapt the procedure in a way that meets the child's needs.

Information and consent

In research projects of smaller scale making use of non-sensitive data, adolescents over the age of 15 can in many cases give their own consent. The age limit for self-determination depends on an overall judgment of the specific research project and whether the person is able to understand both what participation entails and how to safeguard their own rights. See also: When may children give their consent to participate?

When parents give consent on behalf of their children, they have the right to know what kind of information is to be collected. They should also be informed that they have the right to see the interview guide/questionnaire that is to be presented to the child, or that school/kindergarten staff is to answer about their child.

Clarification with institutional management

Before commencing a project, the researcher must clarify the implementation of the project with the management of the school/kindergarten where it is to take place. This also applies if the researcher is employed at the school/kindergarten where he/she will conduct research. read more about research in one's own place of work.

In some projects, the school/kindergarten is the initiator for the project or wants to access to/receive a copy of the data material. In such cases, it is important to inform parents/children about this, and provide information about how long the institution will have access to personal data and for what purpose.

Employee participation and confidentiality

The duty of confidentiality prevents school/kindergarten employees to discuss children/parents in a personally identifiable manner. The researcher must therefore ask questions in a way that ensures the duty of confidentiality to be upheld. Also, the researcher can remind the employee that names and identifying background information (such as age, gender, country of origin, special events, diagnoses etc.) should be excluded when talking about children or parents. If it is necessary for the purpose of the project that children/parents are identified, employees can provide such information only if they are released from the duty of confidentiality. This usually has to be done with consent from parents /children.

It can also be helpful to read NESH's (The National Committee for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and the Humanities) ethical guidelines on research involving children.

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