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Confounding Variables - Essay Example

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She randomly chooses one half of the boys and one half of the girls in her class and sends a note home with them. The note asks the parents to spend more time each day working with…
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Confounding Variables
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Confounding Variables Scenario chosen: Scenario h An elementary school teacher wants to show that parents’ involvement helps their children learn. She randomly chooses one half of the boys and one half of the girls in her class and sends a note home with them. The note asks the parents to spend more time each day working with the child on his or her math homework. The other half of the children do not receive a note. At the end of the school year, the teacher finds that the children whose parents she sent notes to have significantly better final math grades. Why can’t the researcher conclude that parental involvement increased the students’ scores?
Confounding variable that could be present:
1. Maturation: Over the school year, some students mature in their understanding of a subject much faster than others; all other things being equal. It is not possible to predict who will mature faster beforehand; and it could happen that all early maturing students end up in one group. At the end of the year, it will not be possible to tell if this has occurred.
Way to reduce effect: The study could be conducted with short timelines of a couple of weeks at a time; and multiple such groups can be formed over the course of the year. Each period can precede a class test. At the end; data for all instances of parental involvement can be taken together. Since different children will provide data to the group at different times in the year; it should control for maturation.
2. Parental Pressure: Parents may misunderstand the reason for the note and may believe that their child is not performing to the required level in class. The stress of the parent will affect the way they interact with the child, and may keep asking for improved performance. This puts the child under pressure, and far more effort may be taken in order to fulfil the parents’ wishes; leading to better grades.
Way to reduce effect: The parents who are contacted should first be informed fully about the study that is underway; and secondly; they should be reassured of their child’s ability and performance. Any questions should be welcomed and answered.
3. Extra Help: Parent’s may engage extra help – including professional tutoring to help boost their child’s performance. This can also be motivated by the parents (mistakenly) believing that they as parents are under scrutiny. This can boost the child’s grades further than only parental involvement would.
Way to reduce effect: Parents should be cautioned against such practices in the information about the experiment. They should also be encouraged to report any such choices to the teacher, so that the data may be treated accordingly.
References:
Kerlinger, F.N. (1986).  Foundations of behavioral research, Orlando, FL: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Stangor, C. (2010). Experimental control and internal validity. Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences (4th ed.). Pp. 227 – 253. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.  Read More
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