Conducting any kind of research requires careful consideration of possible ethical and political issues, this is especially true within the teaching environment due to students possibly being under the age of 18 years old, data privacy surrounding students marks, student safety and being able to perform action research within established rules and policies. There are also other factors to consider, such as when conducting research outside a teaching environment, if someone doesn’t wish to participate then they are no longer involved in the research, whereas conducting action research within the classroom, if a student doesn’t wish to participate they are still in the same classroom as students that are participating, this will need careful management.
Student marks are an extremely important aspect that should not be overlooked, while it is important to conduct action research to improve learning there are cases where the implementation phase will have a negative effect on student learning, this should not be at the detriment of students marks. For example, using equipment that fails regularly before a student sits their GCSE exam should not be considered, due to the unprofessional nature and the potential negative impact on the their exam performance.
Rules and policies can have a substantial impact on the research that is conducted, it is essential that permission is obtained from the course lead and, depending upon the nature of the research, the department head. For example, most Codes of Conduct state “Turn your mobile phone off in class unless otherwise directed to do so”, allowing all students access to their mobiles is in breach of many Codes of Conduct. This could also have wider consequences in that students may attempt to use their mobile in other classes, making behaviour management more challenging for other lecturers. This may cause a situation of office politics, as a result it is essential that if the research nature could spread into other classes all other lecturers within the department are informed and are fully aware of the research being conducted.
In all research projects it is essential to have consent from all research participants, it may be that some wish to participate but in an anonymous manner. It is important that participants understand how their information will be used and who will be able to access their information. In order for participants to feel comfortable during the research process, the research must be non-intrusive with all participants having the option to no longer participate if they feel uncomfortable.
During my action research project, I have obtained permission to conduct an action research project from the course lead, along with providing specific details about what the research involves. As all my students are adults, many of the ethical issues regarding research conducted on children doesn’t apply; the most important aspect is that the students themselves are able to give permission to be participants within my research, rather than parental permission being required. I will thoroughly explain the research to my students and give all students the opportunity to opt-out. The next step is to provide all students with a form that they must sign confirming they wish to be a participant within the research and giving me permission to use their comments, feedback and marks within my research. This is also the student opportunity to insist upon being anonymous within the results.
To avoid any potential office politics I provide feedback to teaching systems using the traditional formats, as a result colleagues will experience no change in feedback recorded. The feedback I provide will be in line with policies and rules regarding feedback. As the action research I’m conducting revolves around the manner in which formative and summative feedback is provided there are no safety concerns.