Category Archives: Ethics


I recently attended the Graduate School of Education’s Research Ethics Committee Annual Conference. (Not as a presenter but as a keen Tweeter! #GSOEethics) A range of researchers discussed diverse issues related to ethical encounters in their research.

First up was Dr Helen Manchester (Lecturer at GSoE, Bristol). Helen’s work on the Tangible Memories Project explored ways to combat loneliness and loss in older people through digital technologies. What was impressive about Helen’s work – which resonated with my own – was the framing of ethics in terms empathy (as opposed to sympathy) and the capacity to inhabit the other’s perspective. I’m currently using Merleau-Ponty’s work (The Phenomenology of Perception and the Visible and Invisible) to help theorise this process, particularly in relation to intercorporeality. However, I think I’m taking a slightly different route to Helen as my theory is about the co-constitution of self and other in the act of participatory observation. By this, I mean that I’m not simply trying to inhabit the other’s perspective, but be reflexive and sensitive to how the “we” emerges as an original feature of a distinct, affective epistemological stance. These ideas are emerging and will hopefully be written up for publication soon (so keep following my blog!).

Next up was Dr Jacqui Shepherd (Lecturer, University of Sussex). Jacqui discussed alternatives to semi-structured interviews for people with autism such as card sorts and walking interviews. I was deeply suspicious at first (having seen and written about the problems with Talking Mats as an approach to interviewing children with PMLD.) However, Jacqui was sufficiently reflexive to talk about the strengths and shortfalls of these approaches. Furthermore, she presented interview data which demonstrated how the quality of talk between the interviewer and interviewee was enhanced through her research design. By the end I was very keen to find out more. Apparently this way of working is common in Human Geography…

Next up was Dr Jocelyn Wishart (Senior Lecturer, GSoE, Bristol). Jocelyn’s work in the area of mobile technologies is far removed from my own. I’m usually suspicious of technology advocates in the PMLD field as (in my experience) the technology doesn’t replace the underlying assumptions about the lack of abilities of children with PMLD and becomes just another tool for behaviourist or cognitivist interventions. However, Jocelyn’s talk was about ownership of data and the kind of research that can be undertaken using technology in the classrooms. She then presented her framework for conducting thought experiments around ethics when preparing research project.

We closed the day discussing controversial case studies (the session was run by fab staff at GSoE: Wan Yee and Helen Knowler). Great fun and lots of challenging debates! I look forward to the 2017 event…