APA approves guidelines for research by elementary and secondary school students

Guidelines help promote public understanding of psychology as a STEM discipline.

A principal mission of the American Psychological Association (APA), as enunciated in its strategic plan, is to promote the recognition of psychology as a core Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) discipline. One major route to achieving this goal is to expose students to psychological science at an early age. To that end, the APA encourages educators from the kindergarten through high school (K-12) levels to engage students in hands-on psychological science projects. Demonstrations and research projects enable students to develop an appreciation for the rewards and rigors of psychological science.

As part of this ongoing APA effort, the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) and the Committee on Human Research (CHR) have developed guidelines to assist K-12 teachers in incorporating behavioral projects with nonhuman animals and/or human participants into their lesson plans. The missions of both CARE and CHR include disseminating guidelines for ethical conduct in research, teaching and practical applications.

CARE’s "Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Behavioral Projects in Schools (K-12)," which were adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in February 2013, highlight:

  • The knowledge gained by conducting behavioral and psychological research with nonhuman animals. 

  • How in-classroom demonstrations and research projects with nonhuman animals can stimulate intellectual interest in the life, behavioral and psychological sciences.

  • The ethical foundations and federal regulations ensuring the human treatment of nonhuman animals in research. 

  • Recommendations for ethical conduct of nonhuman animal research.

CHR’s "Guidelines for Ethical Conduct of Behavioral Projects Involving Human Participants by High School Students," which were adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in August 2012, highlight:

  • The ethical principles underlying research with human participants. 

  • The federal regulations for the protection of human participants. 

  • Recommendations for the ethical conduct of research with human participants by high school students.

If you would like to request hard copies of either set of guidelines, please email Jenna McGwin in the APA Science Directorate Research Ethics Office.