The single greatest obstacle to supporting character development in adolescents is the gap between researchers and schools.

We have developed Character Lab Research Network to connect you to cutting-edge scientists.
Now, regardless of physical location, every school has the opportunity to
benefit from character development research.

General Questions

  • Why have you developed Character Lab Research Network?

    We have developed our online Character Lab Research Network (CLRN) platform to seamlessly connect schools with character development researchers.  Researchers create activities that they make available through CLRN, which come in various forms including surveys, open-ended responses, short video clips, and gamified tasks.  Schools that connect with those researchers make CLRN available to their students, who can then participate in those activities.

  • What information does CLRN collect about students?

    CLRN only collects information from a student with the permission of the school that the student attends. Once a school has decided to use CLRN in the classroom, teachers will create accounts for students by providing their names and/or student ID numbers. Students will log on to the platform with that name or ID number and a password, and will use the platform to perform the research activities. Through the research activities, students may provide responses to research questions related to character development (e.g., grit, growth mindset), perform tasks (e.g., trace a star backwards, identify missing pieces of a matrix), or provide responses to questions after the research has been conducted.

  • What commitments does Character Lab make to protect the privacy of student information?

    Character Lab is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development, not to profit from the use of student personal information. We understand the sensitive nature of student personal information, and therefore make a number of commitments, here and in our privacy policy, about how we protect the privacy of that information. In particular:

    • We will never collect, use, share, or retain student personal information for any purpose other than as authorized by the school.
    • We will never share student personal information with a researcher unless instructed by the school, and then only subject to strict protections.
    • We will never provide any student information – whether personally identifiable or de-identified – to any for-profit entity.
    • We will never sell student personal information.
    • We will never use or disclose student personal information for commercial purposes.
    • We will never build a personal profile of a student other than to support our research services.
    • We will always support access to and correction of student personal information by students or their parents.
    • We maintain safeguards designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of student personal information against risks – such as unauthorized access or use, or unintended or inappropriate disclosure – through the use of administrative, technological, and physical safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.
  • How does Character Lab protect the privacy of student information disclosed to researchers?

    CLRN takes student privacy very seriously. Character Lab does not disclose student personal information collected through CLRN to researchers unless instructed by the school. This means that for the vast majority of our studies, researchers will only receive de-identified student information, and will not be able to identify individual students from the information they receive through CLRN.

    This is how it works. Information collected by students through CLRN is stored by Character Lab, and may include personal information. As a default, however, CLRN de-identifies the student information before providing it to the researcher, so that researchers cannot identify individual students when conducting their research. Where that is the case, Character Lab does not disclose student personal information to researchers – such as names and contact information – and so on the basis of this information, the researcher will not be able to identify particular students with reasonable certainty.

    In some limited circumstances, and only when authorized by the school, Character Lab will disclose student personal information to a researcher. But in these circumstances, the researcher is subject to very strict protections on the use of the information, as described below.

  • Can schools use Character Lab Research Network in compliance with FERPA?

    Yes, CLRN enables schools to comply with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

    FERPA applies to “educational agencies and institutions” that receive federal funding from the Department of Education.  For example, most K-12 public schools are subject to FERPA.  Because Character Lab is not an “educational agency or institution,” it is not directly subject to FERPA.  However, to the extent that Character Lab collects personal information about a school’s students through CLRN, FERPA may require the school to impose certain restrictions on how Character Lab can use and disclose that information.

    Under FERPA, schools can permit third parties like Character Lab to collect student personal information on its behalf, without parental consent, in limited circumstances, including: (1) where Character Lab serves in the role of a “School Official” as defined by FERPA, and (2) where Character Lab facilitates particular research studies under FERPA.

    School Official

    Under FERPA, a school may allow Character Lab to handle student personal information on its behalf where Character Lab serves in the role of a “School Official,” that is where Character Lab:

    • performs an institutional function for the school for which the school would otherwise use its employees;
    • remains under the direct control of the school for the student personal information it receives; and
    • uses the student personal information only for authorized purposes, and does not disclose the student personal information to other third parties unless otherwise authorized by the school or allowed by FERPA.

    In guidance on how schools can comply with FERPA when using online educational services, the U.S. Department of Education has indicated that these criteria can be met through a signed agreement that restricts the online educational service from using student personal information for unauthorized purposes.  Character Lab’s agreements with schools provide schools with the authority to control Character Lab’s use, maintenance, and re-disclosure of student personal information consistent with these requirements.

    As discussed above, Character Lab only discloses de-identified student information to researchers unless specifically requested by schools.  Such disclosures are not re-disclosures of student personal information and therefore are not restricted by FERPA.

    Research Studies

    FERPA separately allows schools to disclose student personal information to Character Lab and researchers where:

    • the personal information is used to conduct studies for or on behalf of the school to (1) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests, (2) administer student aid programs, or (3) improve instruction;
    • the study is conducted in a manner that does not permit personal identification of students by individuals other than employees, contractors, and agents of Character Lab and the researchers that have a need to access the information for the authorized purposes;
    • the information is destroyed when it is no longer needed for the purposes for which the study was conducted; and
    • the school enters into an appropriate written agreement with Character Lab, with certain elements specified by FERPA.

    Where schools request Character Lab to allow researchers to have access to student personal information to conduct their research studies, Character Lab enters into appropriate agreements with schools and with researchers to permit the disclosure of this information to researchers under this rule.

  • Can schools use Character Lab Research Network in compliance with the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment?

    Yes.  The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is a federal law that allows parents to decide whether their children, while in school, may participate in a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning certain sensitive topics, such as political affiliations, religious practices, and income.

    Character Lab’s policy is that schools and researchers may not use CLRN to conduct research intended to reveal information concerning topics covered by the PPRA.  Therefore, the PPRA is not implicated by a school’s use of CLRN in accordance with this policy.

  • Does Character Lab use any other service providers to help provide Character Lab Research Network?

    CLRN is hosted by our online service provider, Qualtrics, an industry leader in hosting and distributing online surveys and other research services.  Character Lab has entered into an appropriate agreement with Qualtrics that comports with Character Lab’s role as a School Official and as a Research Studies provider under FERPA.