Thursday, 12 March 2015

Why should teachers engage in educational research?

As part of my MEd session, I was put into a group with a few other MEd students and asked to work as a team to produce a user-friendly guide which helped explain why teachers should engage in educational research. The information that follows is part of our group discussion on the topic.

The Essence of Ethics
By K Carson, J Knight and N Taylor

Guiding Questions

1) What are ethics and why are they important?

Most people think that ethics deal with issues of right and wrong; in research, ethics are used to promote the aims of the research and to ensure that it is conducted in a way that is safe, fair and balanced. 

2) How will ethics inform the way I conduct my research?

No matter what subject you choose to research, you must make sure that you are conducting an ethically sound study. This will ensure that people do not question the way you went about collecting, analysing and reporting your data. Being explicit in your ethical considerations means that you will be transparent (open) in the way you conduct your research.

Key Points

1) Make sure you get informed permission from all parties, including parents if students are being consulted.

2) Researchers must be open and honest at all times.

3) All participants have the right to withdraw their participation at any time, without fear of negative  consequences.

4) Children should be consulted on matters that involve them.

5) Don't give incentives that could affect participant responses (i.e. chocolate or a day trip out).

6) Participants should remain anonymous wherever possible.

7) If any harmful effects are likely to result from the research process, the participants must be duly informed (this usually only effects medical research).

8) Don't falsify or distort your findings!

9) Don't take credit for anyone else's work.

10) Make sure that you communicate your findings in an accessible way.

Methods and Practicalities of Ethics in Research

1) Use consent forms and letters to parents.

2) Ensure open disclosure of the purposes of the research. This means that you should explain why you are undertaking your research, for what purpose(s) and for whom (audience).

3) Make it clear to participants that they can withdraw their support at any time. This should form part of the consent form. This may mean that you will lose participants throughout your project, and this is a problem when researching your own classroom. A good way around this is to have a backup plan or multiple options. You should remain flexible throughout your project.

4) Don't underestimate the power of student voice. Keep the students informed and answer their questions openly and honestly.

5) Change the name of participants to pseudonyms or numbers/letters. You should not be able to identify any participants by reading the finished report, so avoid any specific identifying features.

6) Keep a record of all your data. Research logs, diaries and journals are a good idea, as are keeping recordings and video data.

7) Always reference the work you are using. This means including the author(s) names and the date in which the source was published. For example, you would use (Carson et. al, 2015) if quoting our article.

8) Write in a way that makes your topic sound relatable and clear to others. Stick to the facts.

Key readings

The British Educational Research Association, (2011) 'Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research', London. Available online at https://www.bera.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/BERA-Ethical-Guidelines-2011.pdf 

Hammersley, M. and Traianou, A. (2007) Ethics and Educational Research. London: TLRP. Available online at http://www.tlrp.org/capacity/rm/wt/traianou/