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Laboratory project group conference

On June 27, the Laboratory held a conference for its research groups that had been working on various projects throughout the year. Our student researchers have presented their findings on a whole variety of topics, including sex education, bullying and cyberbullying in adolescents, parental involvement in the education of children, school choice, and gender stereotypes among teachers.

The end of exam season on Sedova is never too eventful – the desolate corridors and empty cafeteria tables quietly herald the beginning of summer. However, the Laboratory conference breathed new life into room 313, where students and staff had gathered to discuss the results of this year's work.

The conference brought together a lot of guests and participants, including the research teams and their leaders: Ksenia Tenisheva, Darya Khodorenko, Vera Titkova, and Svetlana Savelyeva, together with their most demanding critics: Daniil Alexandrov and Valeria Ivaniushina. The main goal was to give the research groups an opportunity to demonstrate their progress, discuss the findings, and to sum up the work that was carried out during this academic year.

This year three research groups (“Health and risk behaviours” led by Darya Khodorenko and  Vera Titkova; “STEM: Boys and girls studying the exact sciences” led by Ksenia Tenisheva; “School choice” led by Svetlana Savelyeva)

were divided between the two conference sections, that will be outlined below. 

Adolescents at comprehensive and vocational schools

The project group “Health and risk behaviours” focused on issues of bullying and alcohol consumption among adolescents, as well as their sexual behavior.  The group presented the following reports: “Gender differences in adolescent views on romantic relationships and sexual debut”, “Sources of sex education among adolescents”, “The role of parents and peers in adolescent alcohol consumption”, “‘’We are only kidding!”: bullying and cyberbullying among adolescents”.

The students presented the goals and objectives of their study, explained their choice of coding methods, and demonstrated their versions of “trees” – complex hierarchical data structures. The presentations focused on discussing the analysis behind the research results. Since the studies used qualitative methods, every presentation included interview quotes of adolescent respondents talking about bullying and their own risk behaviours.

The “Boys and girls studying the exact sciences” project group was also included in this conference section. They presented their pilot study called “Developing vignettes to explore teachers’ gender stereotypes about STEM”, which really engaged the audience. The research group had only started working together this academic year, having to design and conduct their study from scratch, based on publications by foreign sociologists only. It really was the school of hard knocks, but it surely payed off. Moreover, the young researchers worked with vignettes for the first time, which added challenge to their already difficult task. As the team noted during the presentation, they did not manage to implement everything that was planned initially, because the vignette method was too new to them.

A vignette is a brief, carefully written description of a person or situation designed to simulate key features of a real world scenario (Spencer C. Evans, 2015). In other words, this is a method of conducting an experiment, when participants express their own attitudes, values and beliefs. – From the student presentation.

The presentation was followed by a vivid discussion that highlighted the relevance of the topic, and offered some ideas for future improvement.

During the break, the groups gathered together with their mentors to discuss their results and define new potential areas for research.

Parents and school: parenting values and school choice

This section included such topics as "Choosing a school: regional rules, media coverage and moral panic on the web", "Local educational spaces through the eyes of school workers", "Doors Open Day as a way of self-presentation of schools to parents", "How parents choose schools: data from interviews and surveys", "Obedience or independence?: the parenting values among modern parents", "Parental involvement in the education and upbringing of a child." 

To study these topics, the students used a wide range of sources, including data from internet forums and interviews. They worked with quantitative surveys and databases of the 2014 Unified State Exam scores of all schools in St. Petersburg from shkola-spb.ru. The students analyzed official documents and articles of the Federal Law of the Russian Federation, and conducted observations at Doors Open events at various schools to gather their own data.

At the end of the conference, all the guests and participants were offered to list their three favourite presentations. The anonymity was ensured by choosing to submit written votes. The first place and the audience award was rightfully given to the group who studied bullying and cyberbullying among adolescents. Nastya Kuznetsova received a special prize for the best question from the audience.

The conference was certainly a success. During these four hours, the students acted like real experts, rather than debutants, passionately discussing their research findings.

Onward and upward!

Adelina Akhmedova