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Students and pupils as research participants: ethical issues George Ellison Research and Graduate School Georgie Parry-Crooke.

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Presentation on theme: "Students and pupils as research participants: ethical issues George Ellison Research and Graduate School Georgie Parry-Crooke."— Presentation transcript:

1 Students and pupils as research participants: ethical issues George Ellison Research and Graduate School Georgie Parry-Crooke DASS/Centre for Social Evaluation Research

2 Context Research involving a researcher’s students/pupils has: a long tradition in pedagogic and educational research, including research by teachers and lecturers at Schools, Colleges and Universities been actively promoted by learned societies and teaching agencies (including the TDA and DCSF) as part of moves to encourage research and scholarship amongst teachers been a core aspect of the rationale of many Professional Doctorate degree programmes (including the EdD) received considerable attention from the ethics and research communities, such as the BERA guidance: “Researchers engaged in action research must consider the extent to which their own reflective research impinges on others, for example in the case of the dual role of teacher and researcher… Dual roles may also introduce explicit tensions in areas such as confidentiality and must be addressed accordingly”




6 Case study - background Seminar participants were asked to consider the following: A lecturer, in reviewing the results of their module from the past year notices that male students have performed much better than women students They decide to introduce a new design to the module to provide an experimental context in which they can evaluate differential performance by student gender Their research design will involve: ongoing (process) evaluation of the module review of marks allocated to male and female students interviews with students to gauge their perceptions* * interviews conducted before the course ends to ensure that all students are available to participate What are the ethical issues? How might these issues be resolved

7 Case study - feedback Four groups of seminar participants offered the following feedback:  If the module is experimental or formal research, participants felt that fully informed consent must be obtained before students sign up for module and that students must be able to opt out of the module (i.e. it must be an optional not a compulsory module)  If the research involves interviewing students, participants felt it would be crucial to ensure confidentiality so that they are not linked to the students or their work until after the module’s marks have been allocated and published – to achieve confidentiality it may be good practice to ask a colleague to conduct the interviews  It would be important to address any fears students may have of being penalised for not taking part or that their participation may positively or negatively prejudice their performance/assessment in the module or course, addressing these fears in the consent form  There were a number of concerns about what was felt to be poor research design, including the possibility of positive bias and the Hawthorne effect influencing students’ evaluation of the module  Participants felt that the students should be offered the option of receiving feedback on the results of the lecturer’s research project

8 Key ethical concerns Research involving a researcher’s students/pupils as research participants raises a number of ethical concerns, including: Consent – participation in research should be voluntary, should be perceived as voluntary, and should not be subject to excessive reward/sanction (real or perceived); and research participants should provide fully informed consent whenever this is possible Confidentiality – information collected from research participants should be treated in confidence and should not be disclosed or used for unrelated purposes (except by prior agreement with the participant or to address specified risks to the participant, researcher or others) Competence – research with participants who may be judged to have reduced competence to provide consent (including children) benefit from/require advocacy

9 Potential solutions 1.Minimise risks [risk declines from (vi)-(i)] (i) research students/pupils elsewhere (ii) research other’s students/pupils in your setting (iii) research but do not assess your own students/pupils (iv) research your own students/pupils using methods that generate anonymous data unlink-able to assessment (v) research your own students/pupils but use anonymous assessment techniques unlink-able to research data (vi) research and assess your own students/pupils but have assessments independently moderated/second-marked 2. Address dual role within consent (i) follow standard guidance for consent* (ii) emphasise voluntary nature of participation (iii) emphasise absence of reward or sanction (iv) explain how research and assessment are separated *Guidance on consent can be found at:

10 Key components of informed consent Informed consent should involve the provision or collection of information on:  Name and contact details of researcher  Name and contact details of participant  Aims and objectives of the research project  Role of the participant in the research project  Treatment of material/information collected  Potential risks to the participant  Sources of advice/help/support/treatment  Voluntary participation and freedom to withdraw  Option of receiving summary of research findings  Confirmation that project has ethical approval  Contact details of RERP Chair and Clerk  Signature and date of researcher and participant Written consent involves/requires the retention of copies by researcher and participant

11 Different forms of (informed) consent There are three principal forms of (informed) consent: Presumed consent – in which participants are presumed to have consented to participation in the research unless they indicate otherwise* Verbal consent – in which the researcher verbally informs participants and receives oral confirmation of consent** Written consent – in which the researcher provides written information regarding the research project to participants, and retains a signed copy of this ‘consent form’ * presumed consent may be ethical when the participant is incompetent and when the benefits of the research outweigh any potential physical or social risks ** it may be impossible to obtain written consent in some types of studies (such as telephone interviews) but wherever possible the consent process should be recorded

12 Examples of informed consent forms Examples of informed consent forms are available from a range of ethics and research organisations:  National Institute for Health Research:  National Research Ethics Service community/guidance/#InformedConsent  Department of Health mentgeneticsandbioethics/Consent/Consentgeneralinfor mation/index.htm  Economic and Social Research Council Re_Ethics_Frame_tcm6-11291.pdf

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