Research at the Laboratory School

Research Activities at the Laboratory School

As a Laboratory School, the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) has a threefold mandate: exemplary education for the 200 children who attend the school, teacher education, and research.

JICS Laboratory School provides an environment that fosters research and professional inquiry and is involved in initiating and disseminating new ideas related to improving education. The JICS Laboratory School makes a significant contribution to the education, human development, and applied psychology work within our university, wider educational community in Canada, and internationally.

With this focus in mind, research projects approved by the JICS Child Research Committee to be carried out in the JICS Laboratory School are ones that address issues pertaining to education of your children (ages 3-12) and their development within educational settings. The unique nature of the laboratory school tends to be a significant factor for researchers when choosing the JICS Laboratory School as a potential setting for their research.

Research Studies

The JICS Laboratory School research projects are sorted by current, past, and completed projects. JICS conducts an average of 15 studies per year in the JICS Laboratory School. Protocols and additional information are available on the Information for Researchers webpage



Current Studies

New information about current studies coming soon.

Past Studies

Researchers: Felsche, E. & Buchsbaum, D.

Study Participants: Nursery – Senior Kindergarten

Purpose: This research project explores the development and origins of children’s causal reasoning abilities. The researchers are interested in learning about the relationship between social learning and causal reasoning and how social information, including casual demonstrations and verbal instruction can be combined with other sources of causal evidence, such as direct observation and the result of our own actions when making judgments about the causal nature of the world. This will be accomplished by having students observe various demonstrations with an object (sticker box) and recording how the students subsequently choose to interact with it.

Researchers: Ganea, P., Venkadasalam, V., & Larson, N.

Study Participants: Junior Kindergarten - Senior Kindergarten

Purpose: This project will compare the effect of activities, books, and a combination of both as interventions for addressing kindergarten student’s scientific misconceptions of buoyancy, gravity, and balance. Both direct instruction and discovery learning have been debated as effective methods for teaching pre-school and kindergarten children STEM, however most recent evidence supports a middle-ground approach. This proposed intervention in this research will explore the extent to which young children benefit from a curriculum that is conceptually rich and also involves hands on exploration. The intervention materials will be designed to specifically address the student’s existing misconceptions, with the objective of significantly increasing their scientific understanding and language.

Researchers: Martinussen, R., Messina, R., & Bogert C.

Study Participants: Grades 1 - 6

Purpose: As a collaboration with the Lab School, this study is designed to answer our questions about ICS students’ development of engagement and motivation for learning over several years. The study will examine three constructs: student engagement and well-being, student motivation and coping, and how teachers and classroom contexts support them. The research will examine individual and group differences related to these themes as well as their relationship with academic performance in reading and math over time. Dr. Martinussen’s work on executive function will provide a strong foundation for deep examination of these relationships. The research will examine classroom contexts that support development of teacher student relationships and children’s perceptions of their learning environment. These questions have been addressed in previous research and have been answered in individual studies. This study will add to the literature by examining whole-school perspectives including all stakeholders. Parents of participating Lab School children will be involved in the study by completing measures related to their own child’s self-regulation and learning. Teachers will also be asked to complete measures about their students. The proposal meets the Lab School’s mission to support research projects that are relevant to education and that foster a sense of community and will provide important data to strengthen our understanding of learning and engagement: “Our goal is to provide a developmental and individual difference perspective on student engagement, which can deepen our understanding of promoting resilience and well-being. We believe this project will enhance our ability to discuss how positive environments are created and impact student learning, engagement, and resilience.”

Researchers: Kosnick, C., Messina, R., Bogert, C.

Purpose: This study aims to connect with alumni from the Lab School who graduated in recent years (2000 to 20016) and invite them to participate by filling out an online survey. The questionnaire is designed to determine their perceptions of the Lab School experience, how it prepared them for their schools following graduation, and how it influenced the people they have become.

Researchers: Prioletta, J., Heller, M.

Study Participants: Senior Kindergarten 

Purpose: The focus of this project is to investigate whether gender is relevant in a play-based context, and, if so, how it plays out in relation to children’s interactions and teacher practice. Since the introduction of play-based learning in Ontario, researchers have found that play in kindergarten is often gender separated where girls and boys play in different spaces and with different toys, and is thought that if unaddressed this play may perpetuate more troubling things such as unequal gender relations. During the part of this study that is taking place in the Lab School, the researcher will observe the play of students in the Senior Kindergarten classroom over a period of 3.5 months. These observations, as well as interviews, will look at how the teacher, the design of the program, the classroom environment, and the choice of materials available, influences the interactions of children and the quality of their play.

Researcher: Nakanishi, M. (Haiku, Ehime University, Japan)

Study Participants: Grade 5

Purpose: Haiku master teacher from Japan, Makoto Nakanishi from Ehime University, Japan along with translator, Midori Sakurai, has been working with Lab School teachers and students this year.  Makoto has developed a unique way to introduce Haiku poetry that addresses some of the misconceptions of this art form. In October, Makoto presented his research to the teachers. This was followed by demonstrations lessons with the Grade 5 students which all teachers observed. After this, to meet the goals of this research, each teacher was asked to explore ways to incorporate Haiku into their work with students. In February, the teachers will gather to share with Makoto their students’ experiences with haiku poetry. Makoto will then present the next phase of this research, and teachers will again follow-up. 

Researcher: Volpe, R.

Purpose: With the help of the Rockefeller and CAMH archives, Professor Volpe is rewriting how the Interdepartmental Nursery School (now Lab School) and Institute of Child Study came into being. Volpe is the author of The Secure Child: Timeless Lessons in Parenting and Childhood Education (2010). He is currently researching the critical role played by Dr. Clarence Hincks in the early and later grants that helped establish Child Study at the University of Toronto, as well as Hincks’ colleague Dr. Edward Bott who is seen today as a visionary by many in the field of rehab psychology.  Hincks was a key figure in the Canadian Mental Hygiene Committee (Hinck-Dellcrest Institute) and Bott established the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto in 1927.

Researchers: Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., & Peskin, J. SSHRC

Study Participants: Senior Kindergarten - Grade 6

Purpose: This project investigates the potential of digital technology to help schools meet governmental and private-sector objectives of “innovativeness”, the capacity to live and work in an ‘innovation-driven’ knowledge society (OECD, 2010). By building on improvement efforts already in progress, the focus was on the advancement of students’ collective understanding through the implementation of Knowledge Building pedagogy and technology in Ontario classrooms. Many Quebec schools’ and ICS’ methods and technological advances mutually inform and support the innovative efforts of the proposed project. New digital technology also plays an essential role in supporting classroom knowledge creation processes and in providing automatic, non-intrusive assessment of group and individual performance.

Researchers: Zhang, J. & Scardamalia, M. NSF

Study Participants: Grade 4 - 6

Purpose: Classroom innovations to cultivate creative work need to engage students in sustained inquiry and progressive discourse by which ideas are continually developed and refined, giving rise to higher-level goals. This project will test educational designs enabled by new online learning environments to foster sustained, progressive discourse over time across a network of interconnected classrooms that co-advance shared knowledge, supporting progressive idea improvement in each community. This study is now in its third year, explores ways to improve students’ science learning through collaborative knowledge building using technology. Students work together to build deep understandings of core scientific topics.

Researcher: Killick, E.

Study Participants: Nursery

Purpose: This study will be conducted to understand children’s lived experience of a yoga and meditation program in preschool and kindergarten. The study will explore children’s experience and cognitive representations of the yoga program within the context of phenomenology. The research will be guided by asking the question, “What are children’s experiences of practicing yoga and meditation?” and will also consider what yogic practices are appropriate for children at this age and why. Nursery children will be invited to participate in a 30 minute yoga program once per week for a total of 8 weeks. Participants will be asked to share their experiences following each yoga class using a feedback tool called Pupil’s Views Template (PVT), and a narrative journal.

Researchers: Lam, L.

Study Participants: Junior Kindergarten - Senior Kindergarten

Purpose: This study explores children’s conceptualizations of well-being at school. The experience of well-being significantly affects a child’s ability to thrive physically, psychologically, socially, and academically.  Socially and culturally constructed, well-being is an inherently subjective phenomenon that is context specific and multi-dimensional. While well-being has been widely studied in adults, the focus on children’s well-being in school, particularly young children under the age of seven, have been limited. This study probes young children’s perceptions of well-being through a variety of activities including a focus group, story completion task, and questionnaire. Teachers are also asked about their perceptions of the children’s well-being to see if and where teacher and child perceptions differ. The goal of this project is to highlight children’s voices in research and build a developmental understanding of their subjective well-being in school settings.

Contact for Research Inquiries

For further information or assistance, please contact Chriss Bogert, Vice-Principal & Research Coordinator.