Seminar: Understanding Educational Research – Research Ethics

Earlier today I ran a session on research ethics for the EdD/PhD unit Understanding Educational Research. Being a member of the GSoE Research Ethics Committee I was asked to cover the formal research ethics application process. I also talked about a range of philosophical approaches to ethics – deonotology, consequentialism, situationism, virtue ethics, and relational ethics. Exploring these topics with 35 doctoral students was great fun. The level of debate about sensitive and controversial ethical issues was outstanding, and the students challenged both myself and each other for the best part of 2 hours. Textbooks in the field of social science ethics sometimes present the different approaches as oppositional. However, I was keen to explore how educational researchers can think around these philosophies in complimentary ways. Whilst deontological approaches help mandate obligations (e.g. Mental Capacity Act), consequentialism helps us appreciate the need for forward planning and anticipation during application processes. Situationism allows us to appreciate ethics on a case-by-case basis, whilst virtue ethics suggests that we reflect about who we are as researchers and how we can strive to develop our ethical mindfulness. Finally, relational ethics or the ethics of care helps us deepen our understanding of the meaning of an ethical relationship.   These ideas have been flying around my head for a while, but the seminar provided a great space for drawing together the approaches and debating them with keen early career researchers. Great stuff!


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