Supporting Pedagogic Researchers: The Development of a Model for Exploring the Ethical Systems at Play in Contemporary Learning Spaces


  • Nell Buissink Auckland University of Technology
  • Samuel Mann Otago Polytechnic



Ethics, academic staff development, supporting scholarship of teaching and learning, contemporary learning spaces


Pedagogic research has been described as a fundamental obligation of all university teachers yet many find the process of applying for institutional ethical approval to be challenging or negative. One way to address this is to look to the underlying thinking, practices and philosophies that the existing formal processes are trying to capture. That is, what is really happening in contemporary learning spaces, and what are the ethical issues that need to be uncovered and understood for formal ethical review processes to generate positive experiences and outcomes? This paper traces the development and early application of a model designed by the authors to enable an exploration of the ethical systems at play in contemporary learning spaces. Emerging findings from the model development process suggest that many tertiary learning spaces are innnovative and are displaying features such as student co-creation of knowledge, teachers as guides and facilitators, a growing openness to incorporating an indigenous worldview, and the blurring of classroom boundaries with the use of open-technology and community partnerships. Furthermore, when teachers highlighted these features on the model, they also identified unexplored, underexplored or context-specific issues at play in ethical systems and relationships in their pedagogical research.These emerging, dynamic and complex ethical relationships and challenges include anonymity, recognition, reciprocity, vulnerability, power and cultural sensitivities. Despite its exploratory nature, the development process outlined in this paper offers some insight into the understanding of ethical systems at play in learning spaces. Further research is now needed to test the applicability and usefulness of the model with implications for supporting scholarship of learning and teaching, as well as institutional policy and strategy.

Author Biographies

Nell Buissink, Auckland University of Technology

Dr Nell Buissink is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. Her research centres on graduate attributes (sustainability, creative thinking, ethical thinking, empowerment) and the student experience of learning and teaching.

Samuel Mann, Otago Polytechnic

A geographer working in computing, Professor Samuel Mann has taught and researched at Otago Polytechnic since 1997. Sam has published in the fields of augmented experiences, sustainability, and computer education. He is the author of The Green Graduate: Educating Every Student as a Sustainable Practitioner. You can find him on @samuelmann and


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