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BERA Research Ethics Case Studies: 3. Anticipating the application & unintended consequences of practitioner research

This third entry in BERA’s Research Ethics Case Studies series considers the unintended consequences of practitioner research – or, by extension, any research project that involves multiple stakeholders with different needs and expectations, and in which the researcher holds multiple statuses (as, for example, practitioner, employee, researcher and colleague).

Paul, an English teacher in a school that is part of a multi-academy trust (MAT), is pursuing a part-time master’s degree in school improvement. His dissertation project involves both quantitative and qualitative enquiry into the nature and impact of in-class teaching assistant support to pupils in his MAT. Having completed his research, he becomes concerned about his employer’s use of it – he believes that his findings have been presented selectively, and used in support of managerial decisions detrimental to the adult participants in his research, some of whom are also his colleagues.

Drawing on BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research, this case study discusses key ethical issues, including:

  • the needs and interests of individuals, communities, institutions and settings involved in research
  • balancing the rights of individuals with the possible wider benefits of a study
  • researchers’ duty of care to participants, and weighing up the potential benefits and harm that may stem from research
  • the complexities that arise from a researcher occupying dual/multiple roles within a research project, and potential conflicts of interest
  • how research should be presented and disseminated for different stakeholders and audiences.

About this series

BERA’s Research Ethics Case Studies series presents illustrative case studies designed to complement BERA’s Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research, fourth edition (2018) by giving concrete examples of how those guidelines can be applied during the research process.

For a full account of ethical best-practice as recommended by BERA we suggest that researchers refer to our Ethical Guidelines, which these case studies are intended to illustrate without themselves offering guidance or recommendations.

Annotations in the margins of each case study document in the series indicate where, among the numbered paragraphs of BERA’s Ethical Guidelines, readers can find our full advice on the issues raised (hyperlinks to the relevant passages are included).

Editor

Jodie Pennacchia, Dr

University of Birmingham

Dr Jodie Pennacchia is a researcher in the policy-sociology of education. She began her career working in learning support roles in mainstream and alternative schools, and has published work in the field of alternative education. Jodie has...