The Role of Educational Developer in Supporting Research Ethics in SoTL

The Role of Educational Developer in Supporting Research Ethics in SoTL

Lisa Margaret Fedoruk (University of Calgary, Canada) and Kiara Mikita (University of Calgary, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2212-7.ch012
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This chapter stems from popular misconceptions demonstrated by educators who lack familiarity with the significance and necessity of honoring ethical guidelines and practices when conducting SoTL research. The authors articulate the value of incorporating ethical principles and practices in research design and provide educational developers with much needed critical information about ethical considerations when conducting SoTL research. An overview of the purpose and functions of review ethics boards is included, along with common scenarios involving ethical dilemmas educators may encounter when embarking on a SoTL research study. Reflective questions to contemplate and strategies about how ethical practices can and should be embedded into SoTL research planning and design are explained. A framework and applicable resource are provided so that educational developers may guide and support instructor/researchers through safe and ethical SoTL inquires.
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This chapter is dedicated to the exploration of ethics in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) research. The authors explain the importance of ethics when undertaking SoTL projects and processes of obtaining ethics approval through global research ethics boards. They provide tangible and practical examples from the field that contain applicable strategies about how ethical practices can be embedded into SoTL research and describe the role of educational developers in guiding and supporting best practices in this area. Finally, ethical considerations and questions to contemplate when planning and designing a SoTL study are offered through a tangible tool for readers to use as a guide for future SoTL projects.

Within a Canadian context, SoTL involves research aimed at improving student learning and/or teaching practices in higher education. It is informed by carrying out relevant research, conducted by disciplinary experts who gather and analyze relevant evidence (or data) from learners. As scholarship, the outcomes are then shared broadly to contribute to knowledge and practices to teaching and learning (McKinney, 2006; Miller-Young & Yeo, 2015). Because SoTL inquiry largely comprises research that involves human participants, those interested and involved in conducting SoTL research have a responsibility to act ethically and obtain clearance from their respective institutional ethics review boards (e.g., Research Ethics Boards/REBs in Canada, Institutional Review Boards/IRBs in the USA, Human Research Ethics Committees/HRECs in Australia, Research Ethics Committees/RECs in the United Kingdom.) For academics interested in studying their teaching and/or student learning, it is imperative that they critically consider the ethical implications of their SoTL investigations to mitigate potential harm to participants.

In Canada, it is necessary to adhere to core principles of respect for persons, concern for welfare, and justice by way of treating participants fairly and equally, as mandated by the Tri-Council Policy Statement, titled Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, 2nd edition (TCPS2) (Government of Canada, 2019). The TCPS2 is a national document that governs ethics in all research involving human participants in Canada taking place in learning institutions eligible for funding.1 Similarly, in the USA, IRBs stipulate that respect for persons, beneficence, and justice (the Belmont principles) are three core principles that must be adhered to when conducting research involving human participants. Institutional review boards in the USA hold the responsibility to oversee research proposals from an ethics perspective. In the United Kingdom the National Research Ethics Service was established to maintain the UK-wide framework for ethical review of research involving human participants (Vadeboncoeur, Townsend, Foster, & Sheehan, 2016). However, each institution creates their own approaches, requirements and responses of RECs. Lastly, in Australia, HRECs review research proposals that involve human participants via the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). This national document sets out the requirements for a HREC’s assembly in a higher educational institution, its operation and membership.

Drawing upon the aforementioned examples of global ethics review boards, one can conclude that ethical considerations are embodied through various higher educational committees and boards with the common purpose of negating harm to human participants in research. It is imperative that all researchers consult their institution’s ethics review board for context-specific requirements when embarking on a SoTL research study.

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