You can’t do that!

(Activity 5) Critique and address issues of ethics, law, regulations and policy in practice

I was helping a student with a Science Fair project where he was investigating “applied kinesiology” – the study of measuring muscle response to a stimulus as a way to determine health problems. It is used to determine a patient’s allergies, but doctors are highly skeptical of it’s value, while chiropractors are in favour of it. He wanted to test whether students would have a measured response to a stimulus that they were allergic to that would be significantly different from control substances that they were not allergic to. Substances were in plastic sealed jars, inside paper bags, a clever double blind method.

To select subjects we needed to find those students that were allergic to something. Each student with a health related allergy is tagged on the student management system so we understand who in our class that may have a health emergency and what we can do to avoid the problem or help if there is an issue. A message was sent to all students for a meeting to ask who might like to volunteer or was willing to be bribed (for a chocolate bar) to participate. Students that wanted to be a part of the experiment received a home phone call to explain to parents what was happening and provide an opportunity for any questions.

It was while calling a parent she said that I had been unethical in picking her son from our database to ask him if he wanted to be a part of our study, that the correct way to get applicants is through advertising for those with allergies to come forward. It was stated that this was her area of expertise and that this was the code of best practice as used in research.

In the teachers’ code of professional responsibility we are tasked with engaging with the family and whanau of a learner whilst ensuring ethical relationships with learners and promoting the well-being of our students, to name but a few. Had I broken some unknown code?

Using Hall’s set of questions to guide the process of determining whether I should do anything different in the future, I examined these questions:

Which stakeholder should be given priority? Why?
Keeping the student at the center of the process and there well-being is essential.

What restrictions are there to your actions?
I could not find any restriction to my action within the parameters of our school. Gaining parental consent was a courtesy that needs to be balanced with the rights of the student. The Children and Young person’s legislation states a young person is aged between 14 -17. In the Otago University Ethics guidelines, parental permission might be expected for participants up to the age of 17 depending on the proposal. ethics

Which courses of action are possible, and how should the course of action be implemented?
Although we ended not agreeing on whether asking students directly through a private invitation was ethical, we were able to agree that students had the right to not be involved and her child could choose to pass on this opportunity. In class we are always asking students to be a part of something, working in groups, helping, collaborating and contributing. I don’t want to create layers of complications that act as barriers to students achieving outcomes but this must also be balanced with their needs. This interaction gave me a chance to review how we work with students undertaking research under a different lens, and how research may be carried out in the community. The value for me is seeing the opportunity to add this knowledge into my teaching and discuss with students the role of ethics in their research as ultimately ethics are co-constructed and can be interpreted in many ways.

 

Resources

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-et…

Hall, A. (2001) What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers

Human Ethics Committee. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2017, from http://www.otago.ac.nz/council/committees/committees/HumanEthicsCommittees.html

 

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