Want to help your students thrive? Join our growing network to take part in research that can support your students’ social, emotional, academical, and physical development—and help others reach the same goals.
We Partner With Schools Like Yours
Character Lab Research Network connects schools with scientists to work collaboratively on helping kids thrive.
How it works
- Complete a survey about what type of research your school community wants and select dates within a window.
- Your school participates in research activities! Character Lab handles legal and technical compliance with PII and PPRA so your experience is simple and safe.
- A personalized Thriving Index dashboard displays representative data about your students’ well-being.
Character Lab Research Network consists of four pillars that work together to make school-based research fast, frictionless, and fruitful.
School & Districts
- Check the pulse of your students’ well-being
- Co-design studies to address your biggest concerns
- We train and pay school research leads
- Conduct research based on schools’ priorities
- Design student-centric activities
- Integrate school feedback
- Activities are all online
- Easy tech integration
- Use Thriving Index dashboards to track progress over time
- Students choose participation level
- Parents can opt out their children
- Secure data sharing
Our Evidence-Based Resources
Character Lab provides access to resources and facilitates connections with leading researchers. Our resources and events are designed to promote student thriving in schools and collaborate with mission-aligned organizations.
Guide school- and district-level programs using your Thriving Index dashboard.
Paid Training Positions
Paid opportunities for students as well as a School Research Lead to coordinate activities.
Learning and Community
Join us at events on how to apply research to your specific school context—and build community.
Frequently asked questions
What is Character Lab’s mission?
Character Lab advances scientific insights that help kids thrive. By connecting researchers with educators, Character Lab seeks to create greater knowledge about the conditions that lead to social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being for young people throughout the country.
Why was Character Lab created?
Character Lab was founded in 2013 by a scientist and two educators: Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP public charter schools; and Dominic Randolph, Head of School at Riverdale Country School.
Dave and Dominic met Angela on a field trip. The two educators were visiting leading researchers around the world, eager to find scientific insights that might help young people lead lives that were good for others as well as themselves. These conversations revealed a problem: because research involving kids and educators was so much more time-consuming and expensive than research with adults, the pace of scientific discovery was frustratingly slow. What’s more, insights that had been uncovered by scientists remained hidden from educators and parents, buried in academic articles filled with technical jargon.
Together, Dave, Dominic, and Angela agreed that a bridge was needed to connect educators and research scientists. That bridge is Character Lab.
What is “character”?
Character Lab defines character as the intentions and actions that benefit both the individual and others.
Research suggests that character encompasses a multitude of strengths that can be organized into three dimensions: strengths of heart (interpersonal), like gratitude, enable harmonious relationships with other people; strengths of will (intrapersonal), like grit and self-control, enable achievement; and strengths of mind (intellectual), like curiosity, enable independent thinking.
Character Lab uses the term “character” where other organizations we support and partner with might use terms like social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies, whole child, or life skills.
Does participating in Character Lab require use of curriculum?
No, Character Lab does not require or create curricula.
Schools use the representative data from the Thriving Index to help inform decision-making at a school and district level that is tailored to each school’s climate. They can use resources like Tips and Playbooks to make decisions that work for their context.
How can I help my district become part of CLRN?
Your participation starts with filling out the interest form! After you submit, our team will contact you regarding next steps.
How are districts chosen to become part of CLRN?
The School Partnerships Team reviews interested districts on a regular basis to determine which districts will join the network. We value amplifying the voices of students traditionally underrepresented in education research. At this time, we are focusing on partnering with districts and schools that serve predominantly Latinx or Black students as well as rural school districts.
If my district is not immediately selected to join CLRN, what happens next?
If you are not selected to join CLRN immediately, you will be added to our list of prospective partner districts. You can expect communication from our team on your status and anticipated next steps.
What are my district’s next steps if accepted to the network?
Your district will work closely with Character Lab to ensure you are set up to run research activities as soon as possible.
Districts nominate and recruit the specific middle and high schools that will participate in CLRN by connecting Character Lab with school principals.
Once schools are enrolled in CLRN, each school nominates a School Research Lead, a detail-oriented teacher or administrator who will be paid and trained for their efforts to coordinate activities.
Your Character Lab contact will work with your tech team to integrate our digital platform. The digital platform enables students to engage in research activities using a Single Sign-On (SSO) which allows us to link all data points (such as age, grade level, and school) for a student. We also ask our school partners to export requested variables from their student information systems that are sent through a secure file exchange site.
Is there a cost to participate?
There is no cost to your district to participate in Character Lab. Philanthropic donations allow us to make a significant financial investment in each of our districts, including free training opportunities, a paid School Research Lead position, and a paid student leadership program.
What are research activities?
Research activities are studies that students participate in three times a year and take the form of online surveys.
Who creates research activities?
Research activities are created by Research Network researchers interested in generating scientific insights about the success and well-being of kids.
Our researchers include well-known and emerging experts in adolescent development, behavioral economics, neuroscience, sociology, and other disciplines from a wide range of universities around the country. Character Lab vets researchers on our network through a rigorous application process and supports researchers throughout the research process.
Character Lab also supports underrepresented researchers, including researchers of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and early-career researchers.
When does my school participate in research activities?
Schools engage in research three times per school year—in the fall, winter, and spring. Exact dates for the upcoming school year are determined every spring with input from districts and are communicated to schools over the summer.
Schools schedule 30 minutes for students to participate during activity windows.
Who participates in research activities?
Students in 6th through 12th grade participate in research activities. You can choose to start with some grades and then include others over time.
We ask that all eligible students be given the opportunity to participate, but students can choose to opt out.
How do students participate?
Students participate by clicking into the Character Lab digital platform.
Our digital platform is used by students to facilitate easy participation in research activities.It is also used to collect, transfer, store, and deliver anonymized data to our research partners.
Can remote students participate?
Yes. Since research activities are completed online, remote students are able to participate. We ask that students participating remotely have an experience similar to students participating in person. Remote students should be on a video call with a teacher while they engage in research activities.
How do students access the digital platform?
We will work with your district to get the digital platform set up using a single-sign-on (SSO) authenticator such as Google Classroom or Power BI
Each student is then given an anonymized ID that allows Character Lab to safely and accurately link all data points for a student and assign them to a pre-approved activity that is appropriate for their grade level.
What technology does my school need to participate?
All students should have access to a computer and Internet in order to complete research activities. If your district does not have a device for every student, you can schedule activities to stagger student participation. We also work with partner districts to ensure students have access to headphones during research activities.
What is a School Research Lead?
The School Research Lead (SRL) is a staff member (e.g., classroom teacher, assistant principal, counselor) who works with Character Lab to coordinate research activities throughout the year. SRLs receive training, support, and compensation for their critical work in conducting research activities with fidelity.
In this role, the SRL is also a liaison, providing valuable feedback to improve our work and guiding Character Lab professional development opportunities for teachers at their schools.
What are the benefits of being a School Research Lead?
SRLs get to participate in Character Lab’s exclusive professional development opportunities, share their voice and experience in the research process by previewing upcoming research activities, and contribute ideas and feedback for Character Lab teacher resources and the future direction of the Research Network.
What responsibilities does a School Research Lead have?
To prepare for each round of research activities (fall, winter, and spring), SRLs create a facilitation plan and test research activities. They choose the dates, times, and class periods for school participation. They also test the specific research activities matched to their school to make sure they work on school computers.
During the activity round, SRLs help facilitate research activities and schedule makeups. They are the liaison between school staff and Character Lab for any troubleshooting and work to find make-up times for students who missed the all-school facilitation dates.
After each round, SRLs complete a feedback survey to help improve the process for the next round.
How does participating in Character Lab align with our district priorities?
Developing character strengths is important to students’ long-term success in school and life. Yet the science that tells us how is scarce.
Character Lab matches schools to researchers with shared interests to generate meaningful scientific insights about how to develop character in kids. And, through its partnerships with schools and researchers, Character Lab aims to increase the quantity, relevance, and quality of scientific insights that help all kids thrive.
Character Lab includes teacher and student input within the research process and shares important information about student development with schools.
How is district and school input represented in the research process?
Our school partners share their research interests and priorities. We use those interests to select which studies to run on CLRN.
District leaders also have the opportunity to review each study being run in their district for compliance and provide feedback. We then relay your feedback to researchers in preparation for upcoming research activities.
How is student voice represented in the research process?
We invite students from each of our participating high schools to join CLIP .
CLIP participants, or CLIPsters, give feedback on research activities. They also serve as ambassadors for Character Lab at their schools, helping to support their SRL and promote participation in CLRN among their peers.
You can read more about CLIP here!
What is the Student Thriving Index?
The Student Thriving Index is a formative assessment of social, emotional, academic, and physical thriving. Survey items are co-developed by researchers in consultation with students and staff from our partner schools.
What data will my school receive? How often is data received?
After each round of research activities, school and district administrators receive an interactive dashboard displaying self-reported student data. Your dashboard has sections about social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being.
The dashboard includes links to Character Lab Playbooks, resources with advice on how to take action based on the data you receive.
How do schools use the Student Thriving Index?
The Student Thriving Index dashboard is designed to support continuous improvement cycles at our partner schools. School partners have used Student Thriving Index data to support SEL leadership teams and monthly teacher professional development sessions, inform staff and families about trends, and introduce new initiatives like mentorship programs.
Can my school or district give input on the Student Thriving Index?
Yes. Survey items in our Student Thriving Index evolve over time based on the needs and interests of our school partners. We make it a priority to facilitate frequent user research with our school partners, researchers, and CLIPsters through surveys and interviews.
What is CLIP?
CLIP is a remote, year-round program where high school students contribute to research on student well-being. CLIPsters are trained to provide feedback to researchers and receive stipends for their expertise. Each participating CLRN high school has up to two CLIPsters as a part of the program. Students apply and are accepted as CLIPsters in the spring.
What are CLIPsters’ primary responsibilities?
CLIPsters’ primary role is to represent student voice in the research process. As such, they give feedback on every study that runs on CLRN in order to ensure that it is relevant, applicable, and interesting to students at their school.
CLIP is a flexible program, and students are free to choose their level of engagement. CLIPsters have the opportunity to test activities, participate in focus groups and interviews, and give written feedback on researchers’ studies. They are compensated for their work with a quarterly stipend, which increases in value depending on their level of engagement.
CLIPsters also serve as ambassadors for Character Lab at their schools, helping to promote participation in Character Lab research activities among their peers.
Who do CLIPsters work with?
CLIPsters interact with Character Lab team members and Character Lab Research Network (CLRN) researchers. They join a strong community of students with similar interests from around the country.
All interactions with Character Lab staff and affiliated researchers take place only through Character Lab’s safe and secure virtual platforms. These platforms include (but are not limited to) email, Zoom, Slack, and Asana. All students are trained to use these platforms safely and efficiently.
Do CLIPsters get paid?
Yes. All CLIPsters receive a generous quarterly stipend for participation in the program. Stipend amounts vary based on students’ level of participation in the program.
Who is eligible to apply?
Any student who will be attending a CLRN-participating high school in 2021-2022 is welcome to apply. There are no academic or GPA requirements to be part of CLIP. We strongly encourage students from identity groups that have been historically underrepresented or marginalized to apply.
What can we expect to learn?
Character Lab provides opportunities to hear directly from researchers about the work that you and your students are contributing to. We strive to bridge the gap between science and practice by sharing summaries of relevant findings or connecting you with world-class researchers through in-person visits.
What opportunities are available to connect with fellow educators and leading researchers in the field?
Character Lab plans events to make it easy for schools, districts, and mission-aligned organizations to collaborate and learn from each other and other experts in the field about student thriving.
How do you keep student data safe?
What student PII is collected through the Research Network?
To participate in Research Network research activities, and for initial validation purposes, students will be asked to create an account by providing their school email address, student ID number, and school information. Teachers may also create accounts for students by providing their name and/or student ID number, and may input other information related to their students’ character development through Research Network.
Students log on to the platform with their email address or ID number and a password, and use the platform to perform the research activities.
Are students required to participate in research activities?
Students may opt out of participation at any time. There is no penalty if a student chooses not to participate. If a student elects not to participate, schools can provide an alternative activity.
Can parents opt their students out?
Yes. Character Lab provides guidelines to school districts for communication with parents and guardians about what Character Lab does and the types of activities in which their children voluntarily participate.
Parents/guardians have the option to opt out of participation in research activities at any time.
Parents who do not want their child to participate in research activities can complete a form to prevent their child from participating in Character Lab research activities during that school year. You can review the parent opt-out form here.
How can parents opt their students out?
Parents can complete the parent opt-out form here.
We work with our school partners to develop a plan to inform families about Character Lab’s involvement during the school year so parents can opt-out if they choose. Some strategies our partners have used are sending out a parent email, adding the form to the school website, or sending out a physical letter.
What happens if a parent chooses to opt out their student?
If a parent fills out the opt-out form, their student will be ineligible to participate in research activities.
During research activities, opted out students will see a screen informing them their parent has decided they will not participate and prompting the student to let the teacher know they are ready for another non-Character Lab activity.
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