Ethics

Finally, a return to ethics. Perhaps finally is the wrong word. I have just completed an assignment on ethics (actually I began this post a couple of weeks ago when I had just completed an ethics assignment).

Ethics are an extremely complex issue, although they seem relatively straight forward. Moving forward I still wonder what implications this has for teaching as inquiry – an embedded part of the NZ curriculum and as much an expectation of teacher practice as reflections and professionalism.

This inquiry into your teaching practice involves a reflective cycle, upon which you take focus and action your findings within the classroom. This could be called action research, although it may vary slightly.

If, however, we as teachers are doing research which we are sharing with our peers, do we not owe it to the students to involve them so they realise what is actually happening? Beneficence and non-malfiecience (I still struggle spelling those two) are pretty straight forward and almost go without saying. Deception – I cannot imagine this issue coming up as a deliberate part of any teacher inquiry. Yet, what are the ethical implications in terms of informed consent and anonymity/confidentiality?
Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 11.00.52 PM.png

Informed consent carries with it the participant’s right to not just know what they are involved in, agree to be involved and the right to withdraw at any stage. How does that work when it is a professional obligation and, in some cases, you might be required to do an inquiry around a student? What about the power differential here? If I ask a child to do something like this, they are already in a position of being conditioned to comply* What potential consequences do they imagine if they say no? ** What are the implications for the teacher – do you go ‘tough’ and do it anyway or do you have to redirect your inquiry to focus on other students?

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 10.59.41 PM.pngAs far as anonymity/confidentiality is concerned, this is next to impossible in a small school community. In my school you know all the students (or just about all the students) and have taught or interacted with all of them at some point in time. Sharing results with other teachers on staff can be interrupted with … ‘is that______? I recognise that handwriting etc’. I have experienced this myself. An inquiry into behaviour featured a quote from me. My name was not attached but it was very obvious to all that I was the one who had written it. It was embarrassing
and felt unnecessary (even though the quote was apt and completely professional).

 

What about if, upon the completion of an inquiry, others from outside the school want to know about your results and have your information presented. What happens then? Is it this point that ‘research ethics’ become important when in fact they are important throughout the whole process? Or is this just creating work for work’s sake?

I read a statement which essentially said research is not research unless peer reviewed and published. If this is the case then the above debate is unnecessary. I would arg
ue that often these inquiries are research, even if they are only ‘published’ in a staff meeting, in which case if anyone has an easy answer please send it my way! I have found none amongst my readings.

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 10.56.04 PM.png

*I often present children with the opportunity to decide not to do a task, or for feedback about something. Often this takes considerable reassurances to get them to believe me. As they work more with me they do come to see that I mean it. Even then they will still check. A reflection on me and the system perhaps. After all, our very system is set up to teach compliance, socialisation, academic hierarchies and reinforce cultural ways of knowing.

 

**It can be very exciting when kids say ‘no – I don’t want to’ for the first time. They are beginning to experiment with choice. They feel comfortable and safe enough to step out  Sometimes that’s okay, and other times I will respond, ‘tough – it’s teacher choice,’ negotiate and alternative (or move into non-verbal cues (i.e. the teacher’s look) if they are just boundary pushing). Context!

Advertisements

Paradigms and Ethics

These are just learning summaries from my course. I will add more at a later date, trying to pull all the ideas together.
Two rather large, complex issues…what do I break them down into?

A paradigm stitches together a worldview (ontology) and way of knowing (epistemology). There are three main paradigms – quantitative

-mixed methods

-qualitative 

These three have variations along the ways including things like critical theory etc. There are strong arguments for each and they each inform your methodologies (although your methodologies should inform your epistemology – a bit like the chicken and the egg paradox).
Ethics

This is a much more challenging subject (now that I have created a rather imperfect box for paradigms to be framed in). Ethics in research are ultimately there to protect the participant. Although we exist in a world where those who recognise a universal right and wrong, good and bad are fewer and these concepts have been replaced by better and worse.

Somehow there are still right and wrong things to do in research, as well as good and bad and better and worse. Confusing? I think so.  I ultimately view ethics as a moral assertion, a way to protect people involved in experiments and the integrity of systematic research. Whatever descriptive words are used, ethics are a set of standards in research (and most professions) which are expected to be adhered to. 

Within sociological research, there are a few main ethical principles to abide by – 

-protection from harm

-the right to withdraw

-deception

-informed consent
The issue of power is also inherent within these. Some ethical issues seem obvious – should I permantly injure somebody to see how they react because I am curious in one particular moment in time? No (at least I hope that would be your answer).
However many of these principles become very sticky very quickly. What is defined as harm? If someone knows they have the right. To withdraw, do they feel that they actually can or do they feel pressured to remain in a given situation? If this is the case, how can this be mitigated? Someone has been given the information and has signed it, giving consent – Does this mean they are actually informed and actually consenting of their own choice, or is it a case of pressures they feel to enter into something they don’t really. Understand? Deceit sounds nasty but are there times when it is necessary or justifiable? These issues and many more come up very quickly in research. In researching a situation one is involved in such as education, how many more issues immediately arise (particularly around the issue of power). 

I will potentially blog more about this at a later date . Tomorrow brings promise of research methods and methodology so I will leave this post here until those questions are satisfied.