Chapter Six: Understanding the Importance of Ethics as a Researcher Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” -Potter Stewart As you continue to ex

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Chapter Six: Understanding the Importance of Ethics as a Researcher

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” -Potter Stewart

As you continue to explore the concept of becoming a “teacher inquirer” you must have a thorough understanding of the importance of ethical considerations while conducting research.  Three sources were cited in the textbook to help you gain a better understanding of considering the ethical dimensions of your work as an inquirer.  Once you have read the three attached sources, write a composition that answers the following questions.  Each question must serve as a header in your assignment.

NEA Code of Ethics for Educators.pdf Download NEA Code of Ethics for Educators.pdf

Travelers and Trolls Practitioner Research and Institutional Review Boards.pdf Download Travelers and Trolls Practitioner Research and Institutional Review Boards.pdf

Teacher Research and University Institutional Review Boards.pdf Download Teacher Research and University Institutional Review Boards.pdf

1.  Provide a brief summary of all three sources (two paragraph minimum)

2.  Discuss in detail how the three sources, in addition to chapter six of the textbook, have increased your understanding of the importance of ethical dimensions that must be considered when conducting research. (three paragraph minimum) You must cite evidence to support your new learning.

3.  On page 165 of the textbook, Mills is quoted: “Whether or not you go through any mandatory research approval process, it is important you develop you own criteria for what you consider to be ethical behavior.”  In your own words, explain that quote and provide a summary of how you would conduct research ethically. (two paragraph minimum)

Chapter Six: Understanding the Importance of Ethics as a Researcher Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” -Potter Stewart As you continue to ex
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education ISSN: 1090-1027 (Print) 1745-5642 (Online) Journal homepage: Teacher Research and University Institutional Review Boards Pamela U. Brown To cite this article: Pamela U. Brown (2010) Teacher Research and University Institutional Review Boards, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31:3, 276-283, DOI: 10.1080/10901027.2010.500559 To link to this article: Published online: 05 Aug 2010.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 267View related articles Citing articles: 6 View citing articles 276 Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31:276–283, 2010 Copyright © National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators ISSN: 1090-1027 print / 1745-5642 online DOI: 10.1080/10901027.2010.500559 UJEC 1090-1027 1745-5642 Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 31, No. 3, Jul 2010: pp. 0–0 Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education Issues of Early Childhood Teacher Educator Teacher Research Teacher Research and University Institutional Review Boards Teacher Research and Institutional Review Boards P. U. Brown PAMELA U. BROWN Department of Curriculum Studies, School of Teaching and Curriculum Leadership, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA The author combines a literature review with a theoretical analysis of the interface between teacher researchers and Institutional Review Boards in higher education. Maintaining that teacher researchers are “creators of knowledge” (Castle, 2006, p. 2), the article explores the lack of fit between insider research with an emic design and the requirements of IRBs, which are set up for objective, predetermined, outsider research. The article concludes with a list of questions for teacher researchers to use in self- interrogation regarding ethics including: basic questions about research purpose and participants, more complex questions about the research, and ongoing questions designed for examination over time, such as “What is my place in terms of power? My students’ place?” Also included are considerations (questions) for IRBs to use in evaluating teacher research proposals. Introduction It is easier for a researcher to gain permission to draw blood from a Kindergartener than it is to ask her about her favorite book. Venipuncture is considered noninvasive, while asking an innocuous question of a young child is considered a potential threat. This almost surreal state of affairs is true, illustrating the built-in bias of university institutional review boards favoring quantitative over qualitative research. As Alfie Kohn (1996) might say, perhaps we should look “in the child’s face”(p. 41) to see that she would doubtless be much more unhappy at the sight of a needle than the possibility of talking about a good book. Teachers who engage in research in their own teaching settings, known variously as teacher researchers, action researchers, practitioner researchers, or pedagogical researchers, “reflect a paradigm shift in view from teachers as recipients and consumers of research to teachers as researchers and creators of knowledge” (Castle, 2006, p. 2). As knowledge creators who discover ways to improve practice in personally contextualized classrooms, Received 8 December 2009; accepted 10 March 2010. Address correspondence to Pamela U. Brown, Department of Curriculum Studies, School of Teaching and Curriculum Leadership, Oklahoma State University, 237 Willard Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Teacher Research and Institutional Review Boards 277 teacher researchers fit the description of autonomous teachers who make professional decisions based on what their research and reasoning deems right and true, rather than following a sort of path of least resistance in order to avoid negative judgment and sanctions (Brown, 1995; Brown, Castle, Chimblo, Feurhelm, & Rogers, 2007; Castle, 2006). Thus, teachers who engage in teacher research, the systematic, intentional data collection and analysis to gain understanding of their own research questions, are more likely to be autonomous teachers. Such teachers are also more likely to engage in teacher leadership activities calling for them to exercise voice and agency. The same professional stance that draws some teachers to set up systematic inquiry to investigate teaching and learning in their day-to-day lives often also draws them into graduate school. It should come as no surprise that teachers at any level from preschool through higher education who choose to conduct research with their own students might at some time be connected to a university either as student or faculty, and thus fall under the aegis of an institutional review board. The Role of the IRB Not only teacher researchers, but all university researchers conducting studies involving human participants, must gain prior approval from their university’s institutional review board (IRB) for all aspects of research. Established 30-some years ago, IRBs were put in place initially to supervise biomedical research, because of horrific scenarios occurring as a result of unregulated and unethical research practices. Governed by the Common Rule (Department of Health and Human Services, 2005) and the Belmont Report (National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 2007), IRBs in the United States have three basic principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice. Research participants or their guardians must be capable of mak- ing decisions after being fully informed about their potential research involvement, have the right to refuse participation at any time without repercussion, and have the right to confidentiality. Participants must not be coerced, and risk of harm must be minimized. Over the decades since they were first established, the purview of IRBs has expanded beyond the initial biomedical focus to address all research involving humans, including both quantitative and qualitative designs. In the last few years there have been frequent references in the literature to “mission creep” regarding IRBs (for example, Gunsales et al., 2006; Lederman, 2006; Rubin & Sieber, 2006; White, 2007), largely because the requirements of traditional rules of human subject protection are put in place in a linear, sequential fashion even for research protocols that are neither completely predetermined nor stepwise, such as ethnography. Lincoln and Tierney (2004) describe this broadening role of the IRB, writing, “The stances of IRBs have shifted from assuring that human subjects’ rights are protected toward monitoring, censuring, and outright disapproval of projects that use qualitative research, phenomenological approaches, and other alternative frameworks for knowing and knowledge” (p. 220). The rules of institutional review are applied with a broad brush, and insist that before beginning any research involvement participants are informed of the complete project design, which in emergent research designs, including many teacher research projects, is not always possible. In effect, this lack of flexibility can result in either clandestine research with university researchers evading IRB oversight or the quashing of research that employs emergent methodologies, resulting in a “chilling effect on scholarship” (Jacobson, Gewurtz, & Haydon, 2007, p. 1). When undergoing my own internship period as a new IRB member several years ago, I questioned my IRB mentor as we reviewed together a teacher research proposal. My 278 P. U. Brown mentor wanted to reject the proposal as written, claiming it would be impossible for a researcher soliciting participation from his own students to avoid coercion. I countered, ulti- mately successfully, that the field of teacher research was well respected and that rejecting the proposal for that reason would logically extend to all teacher research proposals, since by definition they involve teachers engaging in research in their own teaching settings. This stance by the IRB would stifle important voices and would be unacceptable. For me as an IRB member this was only the first instance of countering assumptions that teacher research was inherently unacceptable. For example, a graduate student who proposed a teacher research project received a list of corrections to make before her research was approved. One of the “corrections” was that she should transplant the research to another setting because it would be impossible to avoid coercing her own students to participate. The student wrote a rebuttal based on the illogical a priori rejection of teacher research, and her research project was approved. More recently, the refresher training required by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (n.d.) (CITI) for all faculty and students conducting human subjects research included a question about whether or not it would be an ethics violation to solicit research participation from one’s own students. The “correct” answer according to CITI was that it is inherently unethical to do so because it is impossible to avoid coercion. CITI training in human subjects research ethics is required at many colleges and universities, and this single question alone may have the power to dismantle teacher research in academia. CITI online training in research ethics listed over 2,000 member institutions in 2007, including over 1,000 colleges and universities. If every social and behavioral sciences researcher at every institution takes the CITI refresher course, it is easy to see how the voices of teacher researchers in higher education will be silenced. IRBs and Teacher Research University institutional review boards, all basing practice on the same federal guidelines, are often negative toward action research, especially teacher research. CITI training and the assumption that it is impossible to eliminate coercion when inviting one’s own students to participate in research create an IRB climate that is often hostile toward teacher research. According to Lincoln and Tierney (2004), “Some IRBs are quite clear . . . that their main concern is protection of the institution from damage” (p. 220) bringing an even more conservative approach to deliberations regarding approval of all proposals, including teacher research studies. Undoubtedly most IRBs experience “an uneasy fit with qualitative research in education, especially research by insiders in the schools” (Zeni, 2001, p. xvi). Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2009) see the problem between universities and practitioner research as reflecting a larger issue, asking whether prohibitions are “part of larger trends to circumscribe the roles of practitioners and narrow what counts as research in the larger educational community” (p. 116). The stories these authors tell include their description of learning that, the public schools in one major urban area had decided that teachers could not do research in their own classrooms as part of the process of getting a degree and that some area colleges and universities were falling into line with their own institutional review board (IRB) policies. At about the same time, we were told by a doctoral student that a faculty colleague had asserted that doing a dissertation based on case study or practitioner research would not only preclude the research from having much value or relevance but also greatly Teacher Research and Institutional Review Boards 279 diminish the student’s chances of securing a faculty position at a research university. (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, p. 116) Others tell of similar bias against teacher research. Some university IRBs apparently view teacher research as not quite meeting the definition of “real” research, so that as long as proposed teacher research will not be conducted in unusual educational settings, it is automatically exempt. Though this interpretation might be welcomed by some teacher researchers, careful reflection surely will bring realization that viewing teacher research as somehow “less than” is to relegate it to meaningless status in the eyes of the community of scholars. Herr and Anderson (2005) describe a wide range of IRB response to action research proposals, writing, “This varies from a fairly smooth working relationship where action research proposals are seen as no more contested than any other, to those who report intense scrutiny, to delays in the approval process, and even to proposal denials” (p. 118). One professor I met at a national conference told me his IRB at a mid-Atlantic state university automatically denies any research involving one’s own students, appar- ently because of the assumption of coercion (personal communication, 2008). This inter- pretation directly contradicts the ethical standards of the American Educational Research Association (2000), which state, “Standards intended to protect the rights of human sub- jects should not be interpreted to prohibit teacher research” (II, ¶A). For teacher researchers who are collecting data in pre-K–12 settings, university IRBs and school district IRB requirements frequently place teacher researchers in a dilemma. Any university-connected researchers, including teacher researchers, who seek to conduct research with teachers, students, or others within a pre-K–12 school setting may need to satisfy research oversight committees in both the university and the school setting, with neither entity willing to approve the proposed research without the approval, in advance, of the other. It is not unusual for this conundrum to delay research permission for several months (B. Fecho, personal communication, 2009; Lincoln & Tierney, 2004). The uneasy relationship between IRBs and teacher researchers is ultimately an issue of power. As Minarik (2001) notes, “Without a university connection, it is unlikely that teachers’ work will be published. If their voices are not heard, teachers will continue to be relegated to the lower rungs of the educational ladder” (p. 22). Unfortunately, some of the negativity toward teacher research and other forms of action research may be brought about because of a lack of direct attention to research ethics among practitioners. In combing through 30 teacher research books, I found that over half have no mention of research ethics, and only 7 mention IRBs at all. Perhaps because many teacher researchers do not have direct university connections, the impor- tance of research ethics is overlooked. Another possibility for the omission of ethical issues is that teachers are assumed always to be working in the best interests of their students. Still another possibility is that individual school districts vary in their own requirements for permissions and consent, making it difficult for authors to approach the issue with any sort of certainty. Another difficulty in dealing with the complexities of teacher research and the IRB is the blurring of boundaries between teacher and researcher and between participant and student. Jacobson, Gewurtz, and Haydon (2007), writing about all community-engaged researchers, state, “Investigators hold multiple roles within the settings they wish to examine, allowing them to gain the access and credibility needed to pursue the study. However, this blurring of the researcher role appears unfamiliar and uncomfortable to many ethics committees” (p. 3). The typical notion of IRBs is that research participants are vulnerable, reflected in the use of the term subjects, and that researchers are outside the research 280 P. U. Brown setting, disinterested and supremely objective. This stance is troubling to qualitative researchers in general, but is particularly problematic for teacher researchers. Considerations for Teacher Researchers Teacher researchers applying for research approval to university IRBs may fall into one or more of these categories: pre-K–12 teachers and university researchers working collaboratively on a project, university researchers studying their own practice and using current students as research participants, or pre-K–12 teachers engaging in research in their own classrooms who are also affiliated with universities through graduate work or perhaps adjunct faculty status. The following considerations are intended for all teacher researchers, regardless of experience or level. For any researcher wishing to engage in data collection and analysis in their own educational contexts, especially when planning to include current students as research participants, a sort of self-interrogation may be useful before beginning any part of the research process. Framing this exercise as an open-ended set of questions can help the teacher researcher consider ethical issues to ensure the basic tenets of informed consent, including setting up ways to make sure the researcher’s own students understand they are free to participate in the research or not, without coercion or penalty. Included in the self- interrogation questions are basic questions, more complex questions, and ongoing questions that are not designed for immediate answer but are rather designed to encourage continued reflection over time on the ethical framing of the teacher research project. Questions to include in self-preparation for teacher research might be: Basic Questions About Research Purpose and Participants •What is the purpose of this proposed research? •What are my expectations of research participants? •How will I make sure those I invite to participate understand the sincerity of my desire to give them complete freedom of choice to participate without penalty of any sort? •How can I collect consent (from an adult responsible for each participant under 18) and assent (from participants themselves if under 18)? •How can I honor the confidentiality of research participants and nonparticipants? •What data do I plan to collect—audiotapes, videotapes, student work samples, journal entries, observations? •Might a layered consent/assent form be useful, in which participants check levels of participation to which they agree, such as use of work samples, use of journal entries, use of audiotapes, use of digital video? More Complex Questions About the Research •How can I conduct member checks on my ongoing data analysis to make sure my understanding of meaning is confirmed by my participants? •If I am working as part of a teacher inquiry community, how can I maintain participant confidentiality and still be part of the inquiry discussion? •How can I make sure my research does not interfere with the academic mission of my role as a teacher? •How will my participants and I understand the difference between the teaching/ learning relationship and the researcher/participant relationship? Teacher Research and Institutional Review Boards 281 Ongoing Questions for Teacher Researchers Engaged in Self-Interrogation •What is my place in terms of power? My students’ place? •How will I separate a student’s participation as a research participant from her/his education as my student? •How will I continue to ensure not only informed, noncoercive consent but also confidentiality? •Who might be negatively affected by my research? How do I guard against negative impact? Recommendations for Teacher Researchers Of utmost importance to all teachers engaging in research situated in their own teaching settings, whether in pre-K–12 schools, universities, or some combination of the two, is the commitment to meeting students’ educational needs as outweighing meeting one’s own research needs. Meeting a student’s educational needs should never be contingent upon her/his research participation. Teacher researchers should always honor the consent and assent process, remembering that lack of either a student’s consent or lack of that student’s parent/guardian consent should prevent the student’s participation in the research project. Lankshear and Knobel (2004) maintain that teacher researchers should actively seek out research oversight that applies to their work, whether from their university, their school, or one or more of their professional organizations, writing, The line we recommend here is that teacher researchers assume any research they intend to conduct that uses human subjects (even if only for interview and observation) is subject to formal ethical codes and procedures, and set about looking for them. (p. 102) Considerations for IRBs Teacher researchers contribute professional knowledge to the field as do any other researchers (for example, Castle, 2006; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009); therefore, system- atic research planned and conducted by teachers in their own teaching settings should be supported in general by IRBs, whether the teacher researchers are university employees or pre-K–12 school employees who are affiliated with universities as graduate students or adjuncts. Perhaps some specific questions developed for IRB members could ease the process of reviewing teacher research proposals from all teacher researchers working in their own teaching settings and perhaps soliciting research participation from their own students. Suggestions for IRBs Reviewing Teacher Research Proposals •Acknowledge through IRB member training that automatic rejection of teacher research proposals is unacceptable. •Require third-party recruitment in which a disinterested person, rather than the teacher, recruits research participants and assures them of the absence of penalties for nonparticipation. •Strengthen the language of consent and assent forms •Regarding noncoercion; and 282 P. U. Brown •Regarding participation in normal classroom activities contrasted with participa- tion in the teacher research project. •Explore issues of confidentiality, helping teacher researchers conceptualize ways to ensure this key element of informed consent. •Establish a layered consent form if needed, and make the research modification process simple so teacher researchers will be able to adjust the layered form as called for by emergent research designs. Conclusion At the time of this writing, it appears the relationship between IRBs and teacher researchers is generally uneasy. Some university oversight boards reject teacher research proposals out of hand while others demean teacher research entirely by claiming it fails to meet the definition of “real” research requiring oversight. Both these reactions to teacher research are unacceptable and counterproductive, as they can both silence an entire field of research through nonapproval and send researchers underground, avoiding IRBs altogether. Admittedly, teacher research designs are often troubling to the IRB application and review process, as are any research designs that are not fully planned in advance with the researcher as an outsider to the research context. If IRB members and teacher researchers can use the questions posed here to begin a conversation about teacher research ethics as connected to Institutional Review Boards, perhaps a dialogue can begin to replace unfounded assumptions. References American Educational Research Association. (2000). Ethical standards of the American Educational Research Association. Retrieved from 90&id=222 Brown, P. U. (1995). Teacher autonomy (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Digital Dissertations. (AAT 9608907). Brown, P. U., Castle, K., Chimblo, S., Feurhelm, K., & Rogers, K. (2007). The nature of primary teaching: Body, Space, Time, and Relationships. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 28, 3–16. Castle, K. (2006). Autonomy through pedagogical research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 1094–1103. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (2009). Inquiry as stance: Practitioner research for the next generation. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative. (n.d.). CITI home page. Retrieved from https:// Department of Health and Human Services. (2005). Basic HHS policy for protection of human subjects (45 CFR 46). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Gunsalus, C. K., Bruner, E. M., Burbules, N. C., Dash, L., Finkin, M., Goldberg, J. P . . . . . Pratt, M. G. (2006). Mission creep in the IRB world. Science, 312(5779), 1441. Herr, K., & Anderson, G. L. (2005). The action research dissertation: A guide for students and fac- ulty. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Jacobson, N., Gewurtz, R., & Haydon, E. (2007). Ethical review of interpretive research: Problems and solutions. IRB Ethics and Human Research, 29(5), 1–8. Kohn, A. (1996). Beyond discipline: From compliance to community. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2004). A handbook for teacher research: From design to implementation. New York, NY: Open University Press. Teacher Research and Institutional Review Boards 283 Lederman, R. (2006). The perils of working at home: IRB “mission creep” as context and content for an ethnography of disciplinary knowledges. American Ethnologist, 33, 482–491. Lincoln, Y. S., & Tierney, W. G. (2004). Qualitative research and institutional review boards. Qualitative Inquiry, 10, 219–234. Minarik, L. T. (2001). “Tuesday night” revisited: Learning to survive. In J. Zeni (Ed.), Ethical issues in practitioner research (pp. 13–23). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (2007). The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Rubin, P., & Sieber, J. E. (2006). Empirical research on IRBs and methodologies usually associated with minimal risk. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 1(4), 1–4. White, R. F. (2007). The institutional review board mission creep: The common rule, social science, and the nanny state. The Independent Review, 11, 547–564. Zeni, J. (Ed.). (2001). Ethical issues in practitioner research. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Chapter Six: Understanding the Importance of Ethics as a Researcher Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” -Potter Stewart As you continue to ex
Travelers and Trolls: Practitioner Research and Institutional Review Boards Author(s): Ivor A. Pritchard Source: Educational Researcher , Apr., 2002 , Vol. 31, No. 3 (Apr., 2002), pp. 3-13 Published by: American Educational Research Association Stable URL: JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at American Educational Research Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Educational Researcher This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to Travelers and Trolls: Practitioner Research and Institutional Review Boards by Ivor A. Pritchard Practitioner research is a growing form of educational research that presents distinctive ethical issues concerning the protection of research subjects. These issues are also evident in similar forms of action-oriented research carried out in natural settings. Some Institutional Review Boards (IRBsyf K D Y H E H H Q F U L W L F L ] H G I R U G U D Z – ing inappropriate conclusions in their reviews of proposed practi- tioner research projects. This article seeks to explain some of the factors creating the conflicts and misunderstandings among practi- tioner researchers and IRBs in hopes of ameliorating these difficul- ties. Although some difficulties are readily resolvable, fundamental societal rifts exist in the ethical perspectives from which judgments about the ethical propriety of such projects should be made, and the disputes derived from these rifts are not so easy to fix. Educators are joining the ranks of people carrying out projects that deliberately generate knowledge in the context of improv- ing practice. In P-12, college, and university settings, teachers and others see the development of an empirically grounded under- standing of educational efforts as key to improving the services they provide (Zeichner & Noffke, 2001yf 6 X F K D F W L Y L W L H V D U H Y D U – iously referred to as teacher research, practitioner inquiry, action research, or reflective practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999ayf . Insofar as students or other individuals become research subjects, these combinations of research and practice raise perplexing eth- ical questions. The practical orientation, favored research methods, and ethical challenges of these activities are shared by a wide array of applied research activities carried out by people working in education, health, social services, community-based organiza- tions, industry, and agriculture. Included in these activities are par- ticipatory action research, collaborative research, action science, applied anthropology, and related forms of research (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; McTaggert, 1997a; Whyte, Greenwood, & Lazes, 1991; Zeichner & Noffke, 2001yf . Like classroom teachers’ investigational efforts, these activities involve people using research methods in everyday settings to pur- sue various practical goals. These types of activities differ signifi- cantly from each other, but they share important features open to ethical analysis across the spectrum of knowledge-producing ac- tivities they represent. In this article the term practitioner research will be used broadly to refer to the array of activities people carry out as they seek knowledge or understanding while pursuing or improving a social practice in which they regularly engage. Im- portant ethical issues arise for practitioner research and its atten- dant circumstances if and when people participate as research subjects. When practitioner research projects involving research sub- jects are supported by federal funds or sponsored by institutions receiving federal support, the ethical issues are reviewed by com- mittees called Institutional Review Boards (IRBsyf , 5 % V D U H F R P – mittees charged with the review and approval of research plans to ensure the ethical treatment of the subjects. This IRB review process is not always quick, peaceful, or harmonious. Some prac- titioner researchers are already sensitive to the ethical dimension of their work and regard such reviews as superfluous. Neither they nor those less sensitive to the ethical issues are always in- clined to welcome the time and effort taken up by the IRB’s scrutiny or the questions it raises. They want to get on with their projects. Some of them see IRBs as a bothersome obstruction to be placated, overcome, or avoided altogether. The 2001 annual meeting of the American Educational Re- search Association (AERAyf L Q 6 H D W W O H : $ L Q F O X G H G V H V V L R Q V D E R X t current controversies over the ethics of practitioner inquiry and the ethical standards of AERA. Seattle is also the home of a fa- mous troll who resides under the Aurora Avenue Bridge. This serendipitous coincidence suggests the idea that practitioner re- searchers’ relationships with IRBs may resemble the relationship between travelers and trolls: In folklore and children’s literature, trolls are sometimes depicted as irascible, irrational, not-quite- human creatures who block the way of travelers arriving at the troll’s bridge, demanding a toll for the privilege of crossing over. Are IRBs such trolls, causing unnecessary trouble and imped- ing people’s progress? This essay’s response to the question is based on the author’s various experiences with the current sys- tem over the last 10 years, including related work assignments in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement; service to intra-agency and interagency federal committees overseeing the IRB system; interactions with people in workshops and presen- tations delivered at the annual meetings of Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research and regional meetings sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services; and member- ship on low volume IRBs at the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. This essay explores this metaphorical question in hopes of promoting a more constructive understanding of the parties involved, and perhaps even improving future encounters between them. Educational Researcher, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 3-13 APRIL 2002 El This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to Crossing the Bridge of Research: Reflection, Regulation, and Regard The first question raised about the ethical issues of practitioner research concerns the meaning of research. Practitioner re- searchers use the term to talk about what they are doing, IRBs refer to the regulatory definition, and research ethicists have yet a third view. Some of the controversy over the ethics of practi- tioner research derives from failing to recognize how the parties involved variously understand and use the term. Practitioner researchers understand research as an integral part of what they do in the ordinary course of events as a way of im- proving their regular practice. Especially in education, it seems natural that teachers should be open to learning themselves along with their students, and practitioner research is a way for practi- tioners to learn on the job. Their research may consist of simply attending more carefully to what they are doing as they teach by reflecting about what they do and how they do it. Practitioner researchers may employ various mechanisms for recording and organizing their reflections: notes, journal writing, or regular dis- cussions with colleagues. They often use qualitative methods to collect data and sometimes quantitative methods as well (Zeichner & Noffke, 2001yf 7 K H P D F K D Q J H W K H L U R Z Q W H D F K L Q J S U D F W L F H s in ways designed to alter or improve students’ learning experiences, including changes in curricula, assessment strategies, classroom management, or instructional strategies. Practitioner research may be directed solely at enriching the practitioners’understanding of their own professional activity, or they may seek to discover something that promises to improve educational practice for anyone teaching in similar circumstances (Anderson, 1996; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999b; Shepard, 2000yf / L N H Z L V H S U D F – titioner researchers in other fields are also collecting information as a part of their efforts to understand, improve, or reform social practices in which they participate. IRB members rely on the regulatory definition of research, which emphasizes the purpose directing the activity in question. Activities count as research to an IRB only if the activity under- taken reflects a deliberate objective of discovering or learning something new that transcends the particular activity. Research concerns the organized search for knowledge applicable to other similar phenomena: Research means a systematic investigation, including research devel- opment, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. (34 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR], 97.102[d]yf 1 A research activity’s design reflects a data collection approach conventionally used by members of a community whose mission includes the search for knowledge (e.g., sociologists or biolo- gistsyf 7 K D W V H D U F K V R E M H F W L Y H P D E H I R U N Q R Z O H G J H S X U H O I R r its own sake or for some practical end. Because the IRB’s purpose is to ensure the protection of human research subjects, a research activity only falls within the IRB’s purview if it involves human subjects, as follows: Human Subject means a living individual about whom an investi- gator (whether professional or studentyf F R Q G X F W L Q J U H V H D U F K R E W D L Q s (1yf G D W D W K U R X J K L Q W H U Y H Q W L R Q R U L Q W H U D F W L R Q Z L W K W K H L Q G L Y L G – ual, or (2yf L G H Q W L I L D E O H S U L Y D W H L Q I R U P D W L R Q & ) 5 > I @ f Research ethicists begin by identifying the features that dis- tinguish research from practice and proceed to examine how the nature of research activity affects the relations among the people engaged in it. They construe research in terms of the deliberate pursuit of knowledge or understanding. Research may or may not have a practical application in mind, and practice may or may not result in new knowledge or greater understanding. The difference between the two is determined by how their respective goals shape the activity’s process and the relationships between the people who engage in them (Levine, 1986; National Com- mission, 1979yf 3 U D F W L W L R Q H U U H V H D U F K I L W V E R W K W K H P R G H O R I U H – search and the model of practice, and consequently the research ethicist must consider the moral responsibilities of those involved as they are shaped by research, practice, and the two combined.2 In some research, people serve as the objects, that is, researchers interact with or study them because the researchers seek knowl- edge or understanding of human beings. The nature of these people’s involvement is determined by the overarching purpose of the research goal. The subjects’ participation is considered to be altruistic, that is, directed toward a good for others or for soci- ety in general. Research subjects may benefit from participation, as in research studies where subjects receive an effective interven- tion; but the activity’s design is for the knowledge of that inter- vention’s effectiveness for people in general, rather than making those particular subjects better. Because people hold a special moral status, their involvement in research must take into ac- count that although their participation is a means to a higher end, they also deserve to be treated with a particular kind of moral regard or dignity. They should not be treated merely as a means to an end. In other words, drawing attention to the conventional label itself, research ethicists insist that people participating in research are regarded not only as objects, but as subjects-reflective moral agents whose interests must be ac- knowledged even though their interests may be unrelated to or threatened by the interests of the research activity. If the three uses of the term research are compared, we see that practitioner researchers apply it more widely than IRBs. A con- siderable portion of practitioner research falls outside the IRB’s purview. Practitioner researchers may seek to improve their un- derstanding of their own practice without pursuing generalizable findings (e.g., a teacher whose purpose is examining the devel- opment of a collective identity by a particular class of studentsyf . Or their research may not collect information from research sub- jects or design activities in ways that subordinate the participants’ interests to the interest of knowledge (e.g., teachers whose re- search consists entirely of reviewing and developing curricula, or who observe and analyze peer interactions on the school play- groundyf 5 H V H D U F K H W K L F L V W V J H Q H U D O O D J U H H Z L W K W K H U H J X O D W L R Q s that research is always shaped by the aim of generating knowl- edge; practitioners whose actions are designed exclusively to gen- erate some benefit, while being aware that knowledge may accrue as a result, are not doing research. Practitioner research that meets the criterion of aiming to generate knowledge is complex because its dual purposes of generating knowledge and achieving a prac- tical end are entangled, bringing into play both the research ethics perspective and the ethical demands of the practical activ- ity (e.g., education or therapyyf , Q F R Q W U D V W W R , 5 % V K R Z H Y H U U H – search ethicists agree with practitioner researchers that the aim of 41 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to research does not have to be generalizable knowledge; for example, research may include a study of the influence of Linda Darling- Hammond’s work on the field of teacher education or of the his- torical impact of the 1989 Charlottesville Education Summit of the President and the Governors on the education system. Re- search ethicists are concerned about ethical treatment of anyone affected by the research process, even if the only person affected is the selfsame practitioner. Practitioner researchers sometimes object to IRB review by as- serting a right to do their research as part of their work. At times they appeal to academic freedom, saying that the IRB represents an infringement on their right to pursue knowledge in whatever direction their interests take them. To the degree that practi- tioners have a professional responsibility to maintain and im- prove the quality of their service-if practitioner research enables them to meet that responsibility-they may have a right, or even an obligation, to pursue their research. And if indeed they learn something, they are free to say what it is. This right and freedom are limited, however. The American Association for University Pro- fessors (AAUPyf S R L Q W V R X W W K D t the federal government is not re- quired to provide support for anyone’s exercise of the right to do research or speak freely about it (AAUP, 2001yf 7 K H I H G H U D l government makes IRB review (and a number of other require- ments, e.g., a drug-free work- place assuranceyf D F R Q G L W L R Q R f receiving federal support, a condition often adopted by universities as policy for all of the research at the institution (Pritchard, 2001yf 3 U D F W L W L R Q H U s unwilling to accept this condi- tion are free to pursue their research and publish their findings independently or at institutions that do not apply the IRB review requirement to nonfederally sponsored research. For research ethicists, however, practitioner researchers’ rights and freedom are limited for a reason that transcends the issue of federal involvement. Practitioners may have a right to devote their own time and effort to research, but they do not have a right to demand the cooperation of others. In American society prac- titioner researchers do not have a right to compel people-in- cluding their students-to cooperate in their research. They have the academic freedom to air their own opinions, but they do not have the freedom to air other people’s opinions if they have promised not to do so. American political culture does not rec- ognize an obligation to participate in research; rather, we con- sider it to be a socially desirable activity that people may elect to participate in or not, as they choose. In education, if an activity has an aim beyond the participating students’ interests, practi- tioners have no right to compel student participation in their re- search. If investigators want to move into research territory where the participation of research subjects is sought, they must pro- vide a justification for impinging on the lives of others in their quest for knowledge. The Itinerant Researcher: The Troubling Practitioner Researcher The paths of practitioner research draw a pattern. Practitioner researchers tend to travel locally, seldom going farther than their own classrooms, schools, or communities. Their paths turn this way and that, unlike the straighter, more predictable paths of classical experimental researchers. Their journeys may lead them to a bridge where a troll appears and asks troubling questions, creating frustrating delays. What catches the troll’s attention, while other research travelers pass by? The ethical difficulties of practitioner research arise from certain aspects of the research design, the circumstances of practitioner re- search, and the ways practitioner researchers interact with research subjects. Other kinds of research activities share some of these dif- ficulties, particularly those utiliz- ing qualitative research meth- ods. Still, practitioner research is especially prone to them, and IRBs notice. The following list briefly elaborates some of the ethical baggage that practitioner researchers usually carry, slow- ing down their progress across the bridge on the way to their fieldwork. Informed Consent Perhaps the most cherished eth- ical principle of current research ethics in the United States is that people should give informed consent before participating in research (Jonas, 1969; Katz, 1972; Levine, 1986yf 7 K H V W D Q – dard model of informed consent consists of three components: The subject’s agreement to partici- pate is (ayf L Q I R U P H G E f competent, and (cyf Y R O X Q W D U 3 U H V L G H Q W s Commission, 1982yf . Researchers are supposed to provide prospective subjects with information about the project’s objectives and design. In practi- tioner research, if the objectives and data collection strategies are not fully formed, the practitioner researcher’s ability to inform prospective subjects is limited. The subjects cannot know exactly what they are getting into. The subjects’ competence is also problematic in school-situated practitioner research because the researchers are often teachers working in their own classrooms, and children may not be able to appreciate fully the nature of the research or the risks involved. Obtaining parental permission along with student assent is the standard means of addressing this concern, but this strategy re- quires greater time and effort, doubles the chances of a subject’s refusal, and raises additional issues about what the parents should know about what their children disclose in the research. In ac- tion research in other natural settings, the subjects’ competence also varies according to age, education, and experience. APRIL 2002 E FPI 20 In American society practitioner researchers do not have a right to compel people–including their students-to cooperate in their research. This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to Voluntariness for research in educational settings is also ques- tionable because students and parents may feel pressured to par- ticipate when the student’s teacher wants to do the research; even if the teacher can honestly reassure them that they are free to de- cide without reprisal the circumstances are such that parents and students may feel as if they have to agree (Anderson, 1998yf 7 K L s situation is analogous to the Constitutional argument against teacher-led prayer in public school: Even if teachers do not wish to influence students’ decision to pray, their authoritative status in the classroom is an unavoidable and undue influence. In other natural settings, such as research in the workplace, the subjects’ voluntariness is in question as well. The “Educational Misconception” Practitioner researchers play two different roles. As practitioners, they are supposed to benefit (educationallyyf W K H L U V W X G H Q W V % H – cause of this role, students and parents may respond to classroom teachers and other practitioner inquirers as if their overriding function is always to benefit the student. Consequently, parents and students may falsely assume that practitioner researchers are inviting their involvement in an activity because of its educa- tional value, even though the activity’s overriding purpose sub- ordinates student welfare to the interest of knowledge. In a medical context, this phenomenon is called the therapeutic misconception, where patients assume that the clinician’s motive for involving them in research is for their own (medicalyf E H Q H I L W – rather than for research purposes-because the clinician is their doctor (Appelbaum, Roth, Lidz, Benson, & Winslade, 1987yf . The research subjects are misled because of the dual status of the person asking them to participate and their own wishful think- ing. Indeed, this misconception may be operational on both sides of the relationship: Both the practitioners and the research sub- jects may believe that what they are doing is for the subject’s own good, rather than for the sake of research. In the educational con- text, this may be called the “educational misconception.” Anal- ogous misconceptions would apply to practitioner research in other kinds of activities, and because practitioner research also includes the pursuit of practical ends, the possibility of such mis- conceptions is always in play. Procedural Change Practitioner researchers sometimes change their plans on the basis of data collected at earlier stages of the research. The research proj- ect’s process and objectives develop and reshape themselves dur- ing the activity-at the outset the practitioner researchers revise their understanding of what they are going to do (Cohn & Kirkpatrick, 2001; Howe & Dougherty, 1993yf 3 D U W L F L S D W R U D F – tion research is deliberately intended to be flexible and adaptive, changing to accommodate the practical exigencies of the partic- ular situation (McTaggert, 1997ayf ) R U H [ D P S O H D F R P P X Q L W – based health education project concerning the transformation of the Puerto Rican role of the comodrona (natural birth attendantyf shifted back and forth between a sociological model emphasiz- ing the collection of qualitative data about the support systems for access to care and an epidemiological model emphasizing the use of quantitative measures for health-related outcomes; the two models differ in theory, method, risks, and potential bene- fits (Schensul, Denelli-Hess, Borrero, & Bhavati, 1987yf 3 U D F W L – tioner researchers often do not know at the outset what data need to be collected, or what the potential benefits or risks are of the particular line(syf R I L Q T X L U W K H Z L O O H Y H Q W X D O O S X U V X H . Contingency Practitioner researchers sometimes come upon answers to ques- tions they never asked. Practitioner research frequently uses ethnographic qualitative research methods, which uncover the unexpected as well as the expected (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999; Whyte et al., 1991yf 3 U D F W L W L R Q H U U H V H D U F K H U V V S H Q G F R Q – siderable time with their subjects, asking questions and observ- ing events in the natural flow of activity, rather than adhering to a set operational plan. Things are said, events happen, and in- formation comes to light that were not anticipated. Some of the revealed information may pose a threat to subjects or to others; for example, people may engage in some illegal or socially unac- ceptable behavior or reveal that they themselves or others have done so (Lee, 2001; Magolda, 2000yf , P D J L Q H W K H V L W X D W L R Q R I a research fieldworker who goes to do an interview and discovers that an adolescent subject is living with an abusive family member and the adolescent has immigrated illegally from conditions of ex- treme poverty. Reporting the abuse may lead to the adolescent’s deportation; what should the fieldworker do? A more mundane il- lustration of the ethical challenges of contingent discovery in re- search is that of classroom teachers whose feelings about their students-research subjects might change in negative ways through their research interactions, carrying over into the teachers’ regular interactions with their students (Erickson, 1999yf . Preserving Anonymity or Confidentiality Practitioner research is especially susceptible to problems of preserving anonymity or confidentiality. Anonymity refers to cir- cumstances where research subjects participate and data are col- lected, but no one knows the subjects’ identity or who provided particular information; confidentiality refers to circumstances where the researchers know who the subjects are or who the in- formation came from and do not disclose it. Practitioner re- searchers sometimes design their research to ensure anonymity or confidentiality, and subjects agree to participate based partly on condition of assurances of anonymity or confidentiality. Several features typical of practitioner research frequently con- tribute to making it difficult or impossible to preserve anonymity or confidentiality. First of all, some research subjects are also in- volved in data collection, and so their involvement, if not the information they provide, is public. Some practitioner research involves rechecking the presentation of data or research findings with the research subjects, which generally requires knowing who the subjects are and what they disclosed (Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Lincoln & Guba, 1989yf , Q I R U P D W L R Q L V R I W H Q F R O O H F W H G R r reviewed in face-to-face or group interactions, where anonymity is virtually impossible and others besides the researchers are pres- ent; these other people’s discretion is also necessary to preserve confidentiality. The qualitative data common in practitioner re- search are usually more difficult to detach from the subjects’ identities than are quantifiable data, because vignettes, quota- tions, and other forms of authentic representation of qualitative data reflect indications of the sources’ identities (Erickson, 1999; LeCompte, Schensul, Weeks, & Singer, 1999yf . 6 11 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to Many action research projects are deliberately constructed to provide research findings to inform improvements in community practices, which makes the local community the primary audi- ence for the research report. Preserving anonymity and confiden- tiality are especially formidable challenges if research subjects, or others who know them personally, will be part of the audience of the research report (Beck et al., 2001; Erickson, 1999; LeCompte et al., 1999yf , Q W K H V H F L U F X P V W D Q F H V U H V H D U F K H U V P D U H S R U W L Q – formation in an anonymous form, and yet a reader who knows the subjects may be able to piece together the source’s identity. And the consequences of such disclosures may also be greater, be- cause the people who discover the subjects’ identities are often lo- cated in the same institution or community and are in a position to harm them (Lincoln & Guba, 1989yf 7 K H L V V X H V D U H I X U W K H r compounded in practitioner research projects where subjects pre- fer to receive public acknowledgment as the source of particular data, rather than wishing to remain anonymous (e.g., research in composition or creative writing classesyf $ Q G H U V R Q H J , compare the different acknowledgments in Clay, 2001; Minarik, 2001; and Mohr, 2001yf , Q K L V W R U L F D O U H V H D U F K W K H Z K R O H S X U S R V e may be to provide data about identifiable individuals, even though some of the informants may wish to remain unidentified. Conflict and Reform Some people in the practitioner researcher’s institution may not be committed to the researcher’s research interests. Other practition- ers occupy institutional positions of status and prestige that may be unfavorably affected by the research or its results. Practitioner research in education typically seeks to understand and improve educational practice, and such improvements may take place at a cost to those invested in the status quo. If, for example, the prac- titioner researchers set out to improve their mathematics teaching and succeed through their research, then whoever established the previous mathematics program may feel-or actually be- threatened by that success. Practitioner researchers generally carry out their research in their own place of work, and so what- ever conflicts they engender with the established order seldom disappear without impacting someone’s career (Clay, 2001; Cohn & Kirkpatrick, 2001; Hajj, 2001yf ) R U H [ D P S O H D F R O O D E – orative research project designed to improve the educational op- portunities of Punjabi students in a central California high school produced conflicts between the two co-investigators and within the community organization providing administrative support for the research grant, with unfortunate results (Gibson, 1987yf , Q D G G L W L R Q D Q H I I R U W W R V H W X S D S D U W L F L S D W R U D F W L R Q U H – search network in New Caledonia eventually fell apart because of conflicts within the community (Delion, 1997yf . Action research is also often driven by an ideological commit- ment to achieve reform, democratize research or society, or over- come injustice (Altrichter & Gstettner, 1997; Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; Knight, 2000; McTaggert, 1997a, 1997b; Schensul, 1987; Whyte et al., 1991; Zeichner & Noffke, 2001yf 3 U R M H F W S D U W L F L S D Q W V P D E H F R P H G L Y L G H G D E R X t how to address an identified problem in the course of their activi- ties. If some form of collective decision-making takes place and the participants disagree about next steps, coercion of dissenters may be unavoidable. Participants may believe they have been forced to contribute to reforms they disagree with. Often the divided par- ticipants have different and unequal status and power in the in- stitution where the action research takes place, raising questions about whether the power relations are being exploited during the decision-making process (Ebest, 2001; Erickson, 1999; Meyer, 2000; Ruano, 1991;Van Den Berg, 2001; Zeni, Prophete, Cason, & Phillips, 2001yf . The Reviewing Troll: The Obstructive IRB An IRB standing before a practitioner researcher may resemble a troll. Trolls block the way-exacting tolls, asking questions, slowing things down, demanding to be appeased. IRB trolls exact their toll in the currency of the time and effort needed to assem- ble IRB submissions, respond to IRB requests, and work through whatever modifications on which the IRB insists. IRBs’ appetite for paper seems voracious. Because IRBs meet periodically, re- searchers’ access to the bridge may be limited, and they may have to wait their turn in a long line. Some researchers even try to sneak across the bridge, hoping that their crossing will go unno- ticed and avoid the troll’s baleful questions. The legitimate purpose of IRB review is to ensure the ethical treatment of research subjects. However, factors other than eth- ical principles may lead to IRB decisions that delay or put a stop to research. Even when IRBs do rely on ethical principle, their judgments may be problematic. As with practitioner research, IRBs frequently operate under conditions that systematically hamper the realization of their stated objective. There is scant re- search data about how IRBs function, but the few studies which do exist, along with anecdotal evidence and the hot topics at workshops and venues such as Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research’s annual meetings, suggest some ideas about why IRBs sometimes run into trouble. What makes IRB trolls such testy creatures? Overload Some IRBs are overloaded, constantly facing a long line of im- patient travelers. IRB members have other tasks beside their IRB responsibilities, and some IRB administrators lack the resources to manage the volume of their institution’s research smoothly and efficiently (Bell, Whiton, & Connelly, 1998; Office of the Inspector General, 1998yf 3 H R S O H Z K R D U H R Y H U O R D G H G D Q G U X V K H d are more prone to resorting to inappropriate shortcuts. Their de- cisions may be based on reflexes, rather than reflection. For ex- ample, Marshall (1992yf W H O O V W K H V W R U R I G R L Q J D Q L Q W H U Y L H w study where the IRB demanded that the consent form include a statement about treatment for physical injuries sustained during the study because the statement was routinely used in all studies at the medical center. IRBs may send projects back for revision that do not fit neatly into IRB working categories because the is- sues are not immediately obvious. Practitioner research projects, for the reasons given previously, often do not jibe with the IRB’s working assumptions about ethically unproblematic research. Ignorance IRBs should have the scientific expertise to judge the merits and weaknesses of whatever research projects they review. IRBs gen- erally exist at institutions where the research experts on the IRB are a small minority of the research experts at the institution. To the degree that specific methodological and substantive expertise APRIL 2002 i This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to is relevant to evaluating a proposal, the IRB’s expertise is only a fraction of the research expertise of the people submitting re- search proposals. Sometimes this limitation is not significant, but when projects come to an IRB that are fundamentally different in nature from those it normally reviews, the IRB may simply lack the informed understanding necessary to judge a research project fairly. Practitioner research projects may find themselves in this predicament. According to the Evaluation ofNIHImple- mentation of Section 491 of the Public Health Service Act (“Bell Report”yf b of investigators reported that bias or lack of ex- pertise by the IRB was a problem (Bell et al., 1998yf . Regulating IRBs must conform to federal regulations specifying the proce- dures and standards for reviewing proposed research. These reg- ulations are called the Common Rule because 17 different federal agencies and offices share the same regulations for the research they sponsor. Regulations in general, and these regulations in particular, are a blunt instrument. The Common Rule covers a wide range of activities and objectives, carried out by a wide range of experts, in a wide range of circumstances. The rationale for this common set of standards is to avoid forcing institutions seeking federal funding from multiple federal sources to learn and comply with different sets of rules and procedures. But this uniformity comes with the drawbacks of a one-size-fits-all ap- proach. This approach presumes that the same basic criteria are appropriate for identifying and making decisions about the eth- ically relevant features of any kind of human subjects research. The Common Rule’s authors built some flexibility into the reg- ulations to accommodate certain differences, but the basic review mechanism is still a single regulatory framework. Where research activities such as practitioner research do not naturally fit that framework, IRBs have to twist something-either the project, or the framework, or both-to apply the one to the other. In the last few years, concerns about strict compliance with the regulations appear to have increased. The concerns appear to be a response to widely publicized stories about the deaths of two research subjects in biomedical research studies, and federal offi- cials’ decisions to shut down several large, prestigious research in- stitutions for regulatory noncompliance. Some IRBs appear to have dramatically increased their attention to conforming to every regulatory detail (Rubin, 2001yf . Going by the Rules IRB review involves applying various regulatory rules to pro- posed activities. IRBs may look at research to determine only whether it conforms to the rules or not, and draw conclusions on that basis. This rule-orientation may encourage two tendencies, neither of which is wholly constructive. The first tendency is to see everything in black and white, yes or no, all-or-nothing di- chotomous terms, according to whether or not it fits the rule: It is research involving human subjects or not; it is exempt or not; there is minimal risk or not; there is informed consent or not. The reality of the situation may be more complex and nuanced, however, and IRBs’ judgments may need to be more nuanced as well. For example, in a classroom study students who are prospec- tive subjects may be under more pressure to consent to partici- pate than would make their agreement truly voluntary, and yet the degree of pressure may still fall well short of coercion. The second tendency is to assume that conforming to the rules is both necessary and sufficient to determine that a given course of ac- tion is right. Often, however, several conflicting rules apply to a given situation, and in some (exceptionalyf F L U F X P V W D Q F H V Z K D t is right may not be consistent with following any rule. Risk, Risk, Risk, and Risk IRB review involves at least four different risk-assessment func- tions, the performance of which may produce unwanted inter- action effects. The IRB must determine (ayf Z K D W W K H U L V N V R I W K e proposed research are; (byf Z K H W K H U W K H U L V N V K D Y H E H H Q P L Q L – mized; (cyf Z K H W K H U W K H U L V N V F R Q V W L W X W H P L Q L P D O U L V N R U V R P H – times, in cases of research involving children, slightly more than minimal riskyf D Q G G f whether the risks are outweighed by the potential benefits and the importance of the knowledge expected to result. This focus on risks may encourage IRBs to exaggerate and overemphasize the nature and importance of the risks in- volved in research. Hypersensitive IRBs may impose excessive measures designed to prevent or protect against insignificant or improbable risks. Protecting the Reputation ofResearch IRBs exist because research makes important contributions to human knowledge and welfare, and society’s continued support of research depends on avoiding unethical behavior. Many IRB members are researchers who want to preserve the integrity and favorable public opinion of research. Many IRB members are af- filiated with the institution sponsoring the research and want to protect that institution from potentially litigious offended or in- jured subjects seeking redress. Research subjects who have been interviewed about the informed consent form sometimes express the belief that the purpose of consent forms is to protect the in- stitutions, not the subjects. They are supposed to be wrong about this, but they are not. IRBs may well be overly cautious or risk- averse out of concern for the reputation of research in general or for the sake of the reputation of the institution in particular (AAUP, 2001yf . Ethical Conflict The protections incorporated into the Common Rule are largely derived from three distinct ethical principles, which are presented and applied to the research context in the highly influential Bel- mont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects ofResearch (National Commission, 1979yf 7 K e three principles are called respect for persons, beneficence, and jus- tice. The principle of respect for persons underlies the obligation to obtain informed consent; the principle of beneficence de- mands the maximizing of benefit and minimizing of risk; and the principle of justice requires the equitable distribution of the bur- dens and the benefits of research. Each of the three principles is drawn from a different philo- sophical tradition: Respect for persons comes from Kant’s (1797/1981yf H W K L F D O W K H R U E H Q H I L F H Q F H U H S U H V H Q W V W K H X W L O L W D U – ian ideal of Bentham, J. S. Mill (1861/1979yf D Q G R W K H U V D Q G W K e principle of justice as a distributive idea traces its origins at least as far as Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (trans. 1962yf $ Q G E H – cause these three philosophical traditions conflict with each other -8 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to about the nature of what is right, the presence of the three ethi- cal principles in the Common Rule leads to conflicts about the nature of the ethical treatment of research subjects (MacIntyre, 1978yf 7 K H , 5 % I U H T X H Q W O I D F H V W K H F K D O O H Q J H R I F U H D W L Q J D S U D F – tical reconciliation of rival, philosophically incompatible views. In other words, the troll is in ethical conflict with itself. A common form of practitioner research illustrates this con- flict among the ethical principles. Consider the case of ordinary classroom teachers who wish to do practitioner research in their own classrooms: they involve their own students and face the prospect of whether to ask for the students’ assent and the par- ents’ permission. Assume, furthermore, that the nature of the re- search project involves no significant risk and the promise of a substantial improvement in educational practice, both for the practitioner and for other similarly situated practitioners and their students. On the one hand, the utilitarian principle of benef- icence would seem to justify this project. On the other hand, the Kantian principle of respect for persons may be used to prohibit it, on the grounds that students and parents are bound to feel co- erced into participating. The beneficent impulse in the Common Rule pushes the IRB troll in one direction, while the respectful impulse pushes the other way. No wonder the troll is grumpy. Practitioner research and other kinds of research also reflect such conflicts among the ethical principles embedded in the Common Rule. Imagine, for example, the following models of educational research and the conflicting pull of ethical principles upon them: * A study of the prevalence and effects of cheating behavior by students, teachers, and administrators in relation to high stakes tests. (Beneficence vs. Respect for Personsyf * A study of the educational circumstances of young children poorly served by the current school system, many of whose parents are embarrassed by, suspicious of, or simply un- interested in having their children participate in research of any kind. (Respect for Persons vs. Justiceyf * A study whose objective is to implement and evaluate an ed- ucational service and for which the sample population re- mains to be chosen, when the service holds promise for a large population of students who are already doing moder- ately well and a much smaller population of students whose learning is very poor. (Beneficence vs. Justiceyf In each of these instances one ethical principle is in tension with another. Since the principles are drawn from different philo- sophical traditions, the tension cannot be fully resolved; they rec- ognize no common standard. Commentators on the Belmont Re- port and the Common Rule frequently speak of compromise or balance between the competing principles in such circumstances, as if some kind of harmony is always possible (Beauchamp & Walters, 1982yf 2 I F R X U V H H W K L F D O U H D V R Q L Q J Q R U P D O O L Q Y R O Y H s considering values and rules that may apply in the context of the particular circumstances. In some cases, defensible compromises may be reached, or an argument can be made that one ethical principle clearly overrules another. In other cases, however, the compromises are truly arbitrary however they are drawn, and the trade-offs represent a genuine failure to live up to the standards of one or more ethical principles. When that happens, morally speaking, the troll’s hands are dirty. Concrete Improvements in the Roadbed of Research: Paving the Way to Institutional Reform Could the encounters between travelers and trolls be made less an- tagonistic? Surely relations could be better between IRBs and prac- titioner research, or even between IRBs and social science re- searchers in general. Increased resources, education for IRB members and researchers, greater flexibility in the current process, and systemic reform are all means to eliminate at least some of the roadblocks and hazards standing in the way of research progress. Nevertheless, the road will never be made entirely smooth. Resources IRBs can be improved through the acquisition and appropriate use of additional resources. Two IRBs may be better than one; they can split the work, represent a wider range of expertise, and achieve a better match between projects and the composition of the committee. Staggering their scheduled meetings can also cre- ate more opportunities for full committee review. Support for IRB members’ time commitment may require some form of compensation, through either direct monetary compensation or release from other institutional obligations. This takes resources. Additional IRB administrators would mean that administrators would have more time to look at research proposals and provide informative preliminary feedback to researchers about what questions or information in which the IRB is likely to be inter- ested. Especially for proposals submitted by classroom teachers, other practitioners, and graduate students who are assembling proposals for the first time, such assistance may well be helpful. This takes resources. IRBs can also operate more efficiently if they have access to such mechanisms as computer tracking sys- tems and electronic submission systems. This takes resources. The Common Rule requires institutions to provide adequate re- sources to their IRB(syf D Q G U H F H Q W U H S R U W V K D Y H V W U H V V H G W K H Q H H d for additional resources (Bell et al., 1998; Office of the Inspec- tor General, 1998; National Bioethics Advisory Commission [NBAC], 2001yf . Expertise IRBs would make better judgments if their membership’s qualifi- cations were better. The Common Rule requires that the IRB pos- sess sufficient scientific expertise to judge the research proposals it reviews,4 and allows IRBs to obtain guidance from appropriately qualified consultants for proposed projects as circumstances war- rant.5 IRBs reviewing significant numbers of practitioner re- search projects should include members who are familiar with practitioner research, its methods, and characteristic ethical is- sues. Institutions should review their own research portfolios to ensure that the membership of their IRB(syf P D W F K H V W K H Q D W X U e of the research they sponsor and recruit people with appropriate expertise to become IRB members. Practitioner researchers who believe that an IRB lacks sufficient expertise to review such proj- ects should submit the names of suitably qualified people to the IRB, facilitating the IRB’s access to expert consultants (Howe & Dougherty, 1993yf % H W W H U H W W K H F D Q Y R O X Q W H H U W R V H U Y H R Q W K e IRB themselves. Education oflRB Members, Researchers, and Students Better education could make IRB members more informed and understanding. With a more sophisticated appreciation of practi- APRIL 2002 9 This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to tioner research, IRBs could pinpoint genuine problems and rec- ognize the merits of high quality research activities. Recent surveys found that IRB members seldom receive much education or training, and that widespread support exists for strengthening the educational opportunities for IRB members (Bell et al., 1998; NBAC, 2001; Office of the Inspector General, 1998yf , n the Bell Report 76yb R I , 5 % D G P L Q L V W U D W R U V D Q G b of IRB chairs said that more or much more effort should be devoted to education of IRB members and staff (Bell et al., 1998yf 7 K H I H G – eral government and various private organizations have recently encouraged or provided new and increasing educational oppor- tunities for IRB members. Education of practitioner researchers would make their ap- proach to IRBs more positive. If practitioner researchers read and understood the Common Rule, the Belmont Report, and their own institution’s research policies and procedures, they would better understand and accomplish what they need to obtain ap- proval. By becoming familiar with the regulatory requirements, practitioner researchers would understand the standards and cri- teria used to judge their proposals, and be better prepared to as- semble a successful proposal. In the Bell Report, 90yb R I , 5 B Chairs and 86yb R I D G P L Q L V W U D W R U V H [ S U H V V H G W K H Y L H Z W K D W P R U e or much more effort should be devoted to the education of in- vestigators. Additionally, the most frequently reported problem of serious investigator noncompliance reported by IRB chairs was failure to obtain IRB approval prior to initiating the study (33yb U H S R U W H G W K L V K D Y L Q J R F F X U U H G L Q W K H O D V W H D U f; when asked to speculate as to the reasons for noncompliance, 53yb R I W K e chairs said the investigator was not familiar with the requirement for IRB review, and 46yb L Q G L F D W H G W K D W W K H L Q Y H V W L J D W R U F R Q V L G – ered the activity not to be research. The Bell Report also contains interesting data from investigators relevant to education: For a question about resources, 43yb R I L Q Y H V W L J D W R U V L Q G L F D W H G W K D t they had used the Common Rule, and only 5yb K D G X V H G W K H % H O – mont Report. In an open-ended question about changes at the local level to improve IRBs, only 4yb R I L Q Y H V W L J D W R U V P H Q W L R Q H d changes in education (Bell et al., 1998yf . Practitioner researchers and their students could also benefit by taking advantage of the various educational opportunities. Some researchers have already published useful ethical guidance for practitioner researchers (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999; Zeni, 2001yf $ ( 5 $ L V D O V R G H Y H O R S L Q J H G X F D W L R Q D O P D W H U L D O V R I I H U L Q g cases and discussion of its ethical standards, which include stan- dards concerning research populations (Strike et al., 2002yf . Practitioner researchers at universities who train prospective re- searchers could integrate the issues of research ethics into their teaching, so that students could become aware of the ethical is- sues as part of their professional education. If practical experience is a sound learning strategy, then leading students through mock IRB reviews might be worthwhile. Teaching graduate students how to navigate IRB review successfully is certainly a more ap- propriate approach than the tactic noted with alarm by the AAUP, encouraging students to pursue dissertation projects that fall outside the IRB’s authority (AAUP, 2001yf . Basic education in research ethics could begin well before stu- dents go to college. The rudiments of research ethics should be an integral part of K-12 science education, as reflected by the standards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993yf $ O O V W X G H Q W s should get an early start on becoming part of a well-educated public aware of the ethical issues in research, because any student might grow up to be a researcher, a research subject, or both. Flexibility The Common Rule is rigid about some issues and flexible about others. Practitioner researchers who want to do the right thing should keep in mind how the regulations allow them the discre- tion to design ethical research. For example, in circumstances where the informed consent requirements cannot be met, prac- titioner researchers should not assume that their only option is to argue for waiving consent entirely. It may be feasible to in- form, involve, and elicit expressions of willingness from prospec- tive student research subjects and parents to participate in the proposed research, even though this process falls short of truly voluntary informed consent or permission. Such efforts reflect an acknowledgement of research subjects’ dignity and their entitle- ment to elect to participate in research, given the practical con- straints of the particular situation. The regulations allow for a waiver of specific elements of the standard requirements for in- formed consent to fit the circumstances, rather than imposing an all-or-nothing decision.’ An IRB receiving a proposal that includes such efforts to respond to the principle of respect for persons should be more sympathetic to a request to waive the requirement for informed consent than to a proposal that argues informed con- sent is impractical but the research is justified because of the low level of risk and the importance of the knowledge and potential benefits. Demonstrating sensitivity to the importance of treating prospective subjects ethically should make IRBs more receptive. Practitioner researchers can also point out the ethical advan- tages inherent in practitioner research. For example, when prac- titioner research involves the active participation of the subjects, that process includes ongoing, experience-based opportunities for the subjects to develop their competence in understanding re- search, thereby becoming more informed, competent subjects. The mantra of IRB education on the topic of informed consent is that “informed consent is a process, not a form”; practitioner research provides a natural opportunity to practice what is preached. Action research projects are often designed in part to train participants to do research, clearly strengthening their abil- ity to choose to participate as the project progresses. The ideo- logical commitment to democratized forms of research may be viewed as giving research subjects a larger voice in the conduct of research, thereby reinforcing their continued willingness to par- ticipate. And the practical ends sought by practitioner research are often connected to anticipated benefits for the subjects, which strengthens the regulatory justification for the study. In contrast, researchers who seek only to produce knowledge must make their appeal based on the importance of the expected knowledge and the possibility that others might subsequently apply the research findings for people’s benefit. IRBs could be flexible about the degree of specificity required in a research proposal. A practitioner research proposal might de- scribe the kind of data to be collected, the kinds of objectives, and the possible adjustments that might be made in the course E1 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to of the project. If the range of data, objectives, and adjustments all fall within the same categories with respect to such relevant features as risk, normal educational practice, etc., this may be all the IRB initially requires. The Common Rule requires that changes in a research project be cleared with the IRB before they are instituted.7 However, if the proposal embraces a range of pos- sible and ethically equivalent options and the research stays within that range, this would obviate the need to repeatedly return to the IRB with numerous minor developments as the project takes shape within planned parameters. IRBs have the authority to decide when the researchers should return for continuing review (up to 1 yearyf R U W R U H T X L U H S H U L R G L F X S G D W H V R Q W K H S U R M H F W L Q W K e interim, if the IRBs believe that developments in an approved project warrant their ongoing attention.8 Systemic Adjustment Ancillary review mechanisms may also be advantageous. If su- pervisors or other committees in an institution review and eval- uate the relevant technical merits of proposed research projects, the quality of projects submitted to the IRB may improve, thereby improving the process (AAUP, 2001yf 2 Q F H D Q , 5 % U H F – ognizes that it can rely on such prior reviews to resolve certain kinds of issues, its efficiency will improve even more. An advan- tage of a “just in time” approach, in which peer reviewers have already recommended a research project for support before it reaches the IRB, is that the project’s technical merits have already passed muster; the IRB may rely to some degree on the informed judgment of the prior review. Institutions that regularly sponsor practitioner research may find that such preliminary review mechanisms are warranted, regardless of the funding issue, to serve the purposes of quality control within an academic de- partment or college. Such review mechanisms could also review proposed projects for research involving human subjects that are exempt from IRB review under the regulations, but which IRBs currently review as a matter of institutional discretion. Some form of committee or supervisory review can also ad- dress the problem of educational projects involving fieldwork with human subjects that are not defined as research involving human subjects under the regulations. At some institutions these projects receive IRB review because of legitimate concerns about risks or unethical treatment of subjects by inexperienced investi- gators. If these projects are truly educational in nature, they are better handled by a faculty member or committee connected to the students’ educational program (Howe & Dougherty, 1993; Howe & Moses, 1999yf 6 R P H R Q H Z K R L V D Z D U H R I W K H H G X F D – tional objective of the project, and of what kinds of activities could accomplish that objective with the least amount of risk or subject time commitment, would be better qualified to judge ac- ceptable projects than the IRB, which may be unfamiliar with the educational rationale for the projects. Such committees are also easier to adjust to the timetable requirements for student projects in an academic department, and they may adopt a pol- icy of student observation of review meetings as an additional ed- ucational strategy. Reform Reforming the system may also improve IRB review of practi- tioner research proposals. Some people argue that the current system is too lax, while others argue that it is overly protective. Some say the degree of protection provided is generally suitable, but few are willing to say that the system is perfect. Even if it were, changes in research over time mean that the oversight sys- tem must be modified periodically to accommodate new chal- lenges. The National Bioethics Advisory Commission recently released a comprehensive report calling for substantial reforms of the current system (NBAC, 2001yf 7 K H 2 I I L F H R I + X P D Q 5 H – search Protections in the Department of Health and Human Ser- vices, which currently plays a leading role at the federal level, is also considering reforms; its advisory group, the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, is examining issues in behavioral and social science research. Organizations outside the government are also working to create new mechanisms for professional certification and organizational accreditation. The U.S. Congress has recently contemplated or enacted several ini- tiatives explicitly directed toward reform and taken other steps that will surely impact the progress of approving research. Prac- titioner researchers could contribute ideas and support reforms individually, through their professional associations, or through other lobbying institutions. Crossing the American Cultural Abyss Reforming or even abolishing the IRB system would not sweep all of the trolls off the bridges of research. The earlier discussion of factors influencing IRBs’ behavior suggested that ethical prin- ciples drawn from rival ethical traditions sometimes produce conflicting judgments within IRBs about the ethical propriety of proposed research projects. These different principles are re- flected in the Common Rule, but they are also widely found across American society and culture. All three principles are embedded, in fragmentary fashion, in contemporary American culture, and to some degree they inform the ethical judgments of ordinary Amer- icans (Maclntyre, 1981yf $ Q G W K H S U R J U H V V R I S U D F W L W L R Q H U U H V H D U F h also depends on the cooperation of these people. Institutional gatekeepers’ decisions may be guided by one or more of these ethical principles. In education, principals, super- intendents, and others play a significant role in deciding whether to allow access to prospective research subjects, and they may judge proposed research projects in terms of respect for persons, beneficence, or justice. The same is true for institutional gate- keepers in other fields. They may act like trolls and oppose the advance of a practitioner research project, swayed by considera- tions derived from one of the three rival principles. If the institutional gatekeeper steps out of the way and allows the practitioner researcher to pass, the prospective research sub- jects or their guardians may also offer resistance. They, too, may have different opinions about what is respectful or best or fair in a given situation and consequently bring the practitioner re- searcher’s progress to a screeching stop. Any student, or any par- ent, may become a troll. Finally, even if the research subjects and their guardians co- operate, there is still one more troll to appease. Practitioner re- searchers may hear a challenge from within themselves that causes them to pause on the way to pursuing their research, again based upon ethical principle. Although one ethical tradition may dominate their normal perspective on the propriety of their re- APRIL 2002 11 This content downloaded from on Tue, 11 Oct 2022 18:11:00 UTC All use subject to search projects, they may still be susceptible to the ethical appeal of a principle from a conflicting point of view. They may feel that their research plans are justified by the utilitarian ethical princi- ple of maximizing benefits and minimizing harms, perhaps, and still be conscious of a rival ethical standpoint. Their own con- sciences may be the pestering trolls. Such conflicts are more profound than the problems created by bureaucratic obstacles. Some bureaucratic obstacles can be over- come through the application of practical intelligence and politi- cal will, as suggested here. When an obstacle’s source derives from a conflict over fundamental cultural beliefs about how people should be treated, however, reform becomes much more difficult. Here progress requires a transformation of society’s beliefs and practices about how people involved in research should treat one another. The trolls will not be completely vanquished any time soon, whether they take the form of an IRB, a gatekeeper, a re- search subject, or the researcher’s own troubled conscience. NOTES Some of the ideas in this article were originally presented in sessions at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seat- tle, WA, April, 2001. The author would like to thank Jean Schensul, Helen McGough, Valerie Reyna, the anonymous reviewers of ER, Stephen White, and Evelyn Jacob for their comments, which improved the article substantially. This article is intended to promote the exchange of ideas among re- searchers and policymakers. The views expressed in it are part of ongoing research and analysis and do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Education. 1 Federal agencies that have adopted the federal policy for the protec- tion of research subjects codify the policy within their own regulations. The Department of Education’s regulations are located at 34 CFR Part 97. The policy is often referred to by its codification in the regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services at 45 CFR Part 46. 2 This aspect of practitioner inquiry generates an array of important and related questions, such as the epistemological questions about how knowledge gained through practice may achieve theoretical or scientific status (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Elden & Levine, 1991; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Howe & Moses, 1999; Lincoln & Guba, 1989; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999b; White et al., 1991; Zeichner & Noffke, 2001yf E X W W K L V H V V D I R F X V H V R Q W K H H W K L F D O L V V X H s themselves. 3 34 CFR 97.103(byf f 4 34 CFR 97.107(ayf 5 34 CFR 97.107(fyf 6 34 CFR 97.116(dyf 7 34 CFR 97.103(byf f 8 34 CFR 97.109(eyf REFERENCES Altrichter, H., & Gstettner, P. (1997yf $ F W L R Q U H V H D U F K $ F O R V H G F K D S – ter in the history of German social science? In R. 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