Risks to Informed Consent in Pedagogic Research
Keywords:Informed consent, pedagogic research, dual roles, voluntary participation
Stierer & Antoniou (2004) have described Pedagogic Research (PR) as primarily teachers undertaking research into aspects of their own teaching and learning. Consequently, those undertaking PR often occupy dual roles of teacher and researcher. Likewise the subjects being studied are often the researcher’s own students and thus also occupying dual roles of student and participant. The purpose of this article is to highlight the potential risks to valid, informed consent inherent in the nature of pedagogic research itself; due to the dual roles mentioned above and the blurred boundaries between practice development and PR. Whilst inaccurate or incomplete information for decision making is an obvious risk to informed consent, the risks to voluntary participation can be more subtle. Reference is made to a documentary analysis of feedback provided to applicants by a research ethics committee reviewing pedagogic research. Whilst this is not a research report of that study, it provides empirical evidence to support the arguments made in this article. The article concludes that the greatest risk to valid informed consent is the lack of awareness among practitioner-researchers of the risks to voluntary participation this type of research holds. The author highlights the role for academic developers in highlighting these issues on professional development programmes. It is also recommended that a clear institutional position on when teacher/researchers need to apply for ethical approval could also be useful, particularly if flexibility is built in to allow for informal discussions with the Chair of the REC.
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