Graduate School of Education Ethics Procedure

The ethical position of the Graduate School of Education is based on the principle that in all research, teaching/training and professional activity the interests and rights of others must be respected and protected. The ‘others’ whose interests and rights need protection include children, adults, other sentient beings, and institutions such as schools or colleges  with which we have professional contact.

The kinds of ethical issues that arise for the Graduate School of Education usually concern the exercise of power in professional relationships, such as those between adult and child, or between teacher and student, as well as those arising from privileged access to confidential information about individuals or institutions. Although such relations and privileged access are generally conducted with the best of intentions, without proper safeguards they can result in unintentional abuse. Educational and other research involving children and young people requires that particular attention is devoted to ethical obligations because it often involves participants, who are in vulnerable positions.

 

Any general issues of ethical concern to any member of staff should be referred to the GSE Ethics Officers (Chris Boyle and Dongbo Zhang). The Ethics Officer may consult members of the College Committee before giving advice or a ruling.

Any general issues of ethical concern to any member of staff should be referred to the GSE Ethics Officers (Dongbo Zhang and Justin Dillon). The Ethics Officer may consult members of the College Committee before giving advice or a ruling.

Students in the Graduate School of Education who are conducting research for a taught masters programme or for the pre-thesis phase of an EdD must follow the procedures outlined on the Student webpages (ELE) linked below:

All other students - please see the guidance below.

For all staff and student research projects (with the exception of students taking taught masters programmes or the pre-thesis phase of an EdD: please see guidance above) an Ethics Application Form‌ must be completed. Students must discuss the ethical aspects of the proposed project with his/her supervisor(s) at the early stages. Student's applications must be submitted by the student's supervisor.

The Graduate School for Education currently uses a high/low risk criteria to classify ethics applications; please see the Track A & B Definitions_GSE:

  • Track A (‘low risk’) applications will be considered and signed off by the School Ethics Officer;
  • Track B (‘high risk’) applications will be sent to the College Ethics Committee for consideration. Please note the deadlines for Committee Meetings.

Staff and student supervisors should indicate in the covering email when submitting applications which track is appropriate. The final decision on the classification of applications will be made by the School Ethics Officer.

All completed applications should be sent to the GSE Ethics email address for consideration by the GSE Ethics Officer, if necessary together with further information sheets. 

Once an application has been approved by the GSE Ethics Officer/ Ethics Committee a Certificate of Ethical Research Approval will be issued and a unique approval reference added.

During research projects unanticipated issues of ethical concern may emerge.  In such a case it is the student’s responsibility to inform his/her supervisor/tutor immediately and to halt any procedures, which are at risk of breaching ethical principles or the assurances given in the ethics application.  A further application may need to be completed and re-submitted.

The key areas of ethical concern to be monitored, together with guidelines, are given below.

Any research or teaching procedure carried out should not result in any risk of harm, detriment or unreasonable stress to participants.  Educational interventions should not result in any educational disadvantage or loss of opportunity.  Strong medical guidelines exist where physical risk-issues are involved.  Where there is any doubt, all action should cease until full consultation and reassurance is given by appropriate authorities.
Informed Consent

Where normal teaching functions are significantly exceeded all participants including children should understand the significance of their role (i.e. be informed) and should consent to their involvement.  Informed consent assumes that consent is freely given with a proper understanding of the nature and consequences of what is proposed and that undue influence is not used to obtain consent.  It must be made clear to participants that at any moment they are free to withdraw from the research if they wish. Particular care is necessary when the participant has a special relationship to the investigator as in the case of a student to his/her teacher.

Normally written consent should be gained by providing participants with a straightforward statement for them to sign (a blank consent form is available as an on-line document.  This must be personalised accordingly.), covering the aims of the research, and the potential consequences for participants. The language used in such statements must be understandable to the participants. For non-communicative participants the efforts to gain consent should be specified in a written description of the procedure for explaining to participants what is happening. A responsible person should sign this statement (and indicate his/her relationship with the participant) to indicate that this work has been done. In such cases the onus is on the researcher to satisfy the Chair of the School’s Ethics Committee, by the provision of appropriate evidence, that the information/consent requirements have been satisfied. In some cases this may require a clear justification for the involvement of the most vulnerable people (for example with disabilities or in other stressed situations) and clarification that the information can be gained in no other way.
Confidentiality and Non-Identifiability

Persons (including children) and institutions that participate in research have the right to anonymity and non-identifiability unless they are individual adults who have explicitly and in writing consented to be identified.  Otherwise all research data and results, in all media, are confidential and must not be disclosed to unauthorised third parties.  Research reports, dissertations, theses and publications must not permit the identification of any individuals (e.g. children, parents or teachers) or institutions (e.g. schools or colleges).

If data are collected on identifiable individuals, all such individuals must be given in writing the following data protection notice.

“Data Protection Notice - The information you provide will be used for research purposes and your personal data will be processed in accordance with current data protection legislation and the University's notification lodged at the Information Commissioner's Office. Your personal data will be treated in the strictest confidence and will not be disclosed to any unauthorised third parties. The results of the research will be published in anonymised
form."

This paragraph should appear somewhere on the data collection form, however, the wording should not be in too small a font.

For further information contact the University’s Data Protection Officer, Caroline Dominey, based in Special Collections, The Old Library, telephone: 00 44 (0)1392 (26)3033,, email:  C.H.Dominey@exeter.ac.uk

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