Ethics for teacher research: same as research ethics or different?

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Following the 2013 Goldacre paper extolling the benefits of teacher research, this paper reports on a small-scale study conducted in a UK University School of Education by two teacher educators who train and support teacher researchers. The paper focuses on views of teachers and teacher educators regarding whether ethical guidelines for educational research should be required for teachers’ school-based research. The School of Education requires its staff and students to conduct research according to the BERA (2011) Revised Guidelines for Practitioner Research; this study was no exception. However, before it began, the teacher educators who led it had found anecdotally that teachers often questioned why they should follow ethical guidelines for researching in their own schools. Since teachers tend not to seek parental consent for gathering, storing and reporting assessment data, they often queried the requirement in respect of research data; equally, they troubled the classroom practicalities of allowing students to withdraw from research based on teaching and learning interventions. The teachers’ views highlighted the need for systematic exploration concerning the issue of ethics for school-based teacher research. This small-scale instrumental case study aimed to investigate perceptions of ethical guidelines for practitioner research. To gain trustworthy data, two participant groups were recruited: (i) teachers with no experience as educational researchers (n= 8) and (ii) teacher educators who had been teachers and were also experienced educational researchers (n=8). Participants engaged in two hour-long focus groups, when they discussed the nature of school-based research, whether teachers need to follow ethical guidelines for school-based research and, if so, what such guidelines should include. Data were verified with participants, then analysed using thematic coding. Emerging themes included definitions, relationships, consent/assent, and deontological versus consequentialist argument. While both groups thought teachers adopted an ethical code for teaching, practising teachers held a stronger conviction that teachers’ professional actions are consistently beneficent. Equally, teachers did not believe they needed informed consent or assent to collect, store or report student data for research or assessment purposes, seeing this as a barrier to school-based research. A larger -scale study is indicated to identify whether these beliefs are shared by teachers beyond the study location, whether new ethical guidelines for teachers researching in schools might be useful, whether collection, storage and reporting of school assessment data requires a new ethical framework and what the implications may be for teacher education, teachers and school leaders.
Period13 Sept 2016
Event titleBERA Annual Conference Leeds 2016
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional