For me, it is essential to ensure that my research efforts are in line with my personal and professional values and ethics. Therefore, as I undertake my original research project, it is important for me to articulate these principles, consider the challenges that I may face, and identify possible solutions that can help me overcome obstacles. That way, the values and ethical beliefs that I have developed in this course and in my own research will guide me during the design and implementation processes of my research project.
Personal and Professional Values and Ethics
One of the values that I possess that aligns with what I have learned in this course is nonmalificence—that is, the importance of minimizing harm. I recognize the usefulness of the insights that can be produced by research within the field of education, but I do not believe that research results should come at the cost of student learning and development opportunities. Indeed, there is concern within the field that education research can have negative effects on students, teachers, administrators, and/or the system as a whole (Brevik, 2013). As a researcher, I will strive to do work that does not raise this objection.
From both a personal and professional perspective, another important value in ethical research is maintaining respect for participant privacy. When individuals agree to contribute their time and effort to a research study, they should feel confident that their personal information will be kept confidential. Even in situations where revealing the participant’s results would not likely cause harm, I believe that privacy is still important because it is closely tied to my broader principle that all people deserve respect. In my opinion, researchers must respect the rights of people to their own personal information, which means giving them the sole responsibility of deciding whether or not to share it with the broader public.
A third ethical belief that will guide my research process is that of academic honesty. In higher education today, there is a growing trend toward cheating (Josien & Broderick, 2013), but I am fundamentally opposed to this type of misconduct. Not only do I recognize the significant professional consequences of getting caught cheating, but it is also inconsistent with my personal value of being as genuine as possible and avoiding misrepresentation whenever possible. In academic research, where the ultimate goal is the revelation of truth, attention to honesty is essential at every step of the process.
Challenges and Solutions
Based on my personal values and ethics, one of the challenge areas that I expect to face is the difficulty of designing my research project so that it causes the least possible amount of harm to students, teachers, and others who might be impacted by the study. For instance, some school administrators argue that education research projects can negatively affect these groups by taking up valuable time, effort, and resources (Brevik, 2013). Therefore, I face the challenge of creating an experiment that does not interfere with the learning process. In order to overcome this obstacle, I might seek the expertise of other researchers who have successfully implemented minimally impactful research projects in the past. During the early stages of the research design process, I could also consult with teachers and administrators to get their opinion on how much of a burden the experiment might be and how I could modify it in a way that would improve the classroom experience without affecting the integrity of the results.
I also expect to face challenges related to my ethical principle of respect for participant privacy. Even though I do not anticipate that an unauthorized third party would be interested in stealing or releasing the data I collect, I recognize that there are growing public concerns about data privacy, including in the field of education research (Hansen, 2016). Thus, in order to ensure that my research practice is consistent with my respect for the participants, I need to find a way to make sure that they trust the security of the process and feel confident that their information is secured, with no chance for release without their consent. As a solution, I plan to develop a specific security plan and provide participants with a detailed description of the system on the informed consent form that they must sign before participating in my study. That way, from the moment they confirm their willingness to participate, they will have no doubt about my commitment to respecting their rights to their personal data.
Finally, even though I highly value academic honesty and do not plan to cheat as I complete my original research project, I still face the challenge of avoiding one of the most common forms of academic misconduct: plagiarism (Josien & Broderick, 2013). Part of my original research project will be writing a formal dissertation, for which I will need to draw on a large volume of education literature to provide the reader with background on the subject and justify my research questions and design. When writing paper like this, it can be difficult to avoid plagiarizing other writers’ work, even when the researcher has good intentions. In order to overcome this obstacle, I can develop a strategy for effective paraphrasing, such as reading a paper, setting it aside, and then writing the information in my own words without looking at the original work. That way, I can ensure that the final product of my research is in line with my ethical commitment to academic integrity.
- Brevik, L.M. (2013). Research ethics: An investigation into why school leaders agree or refuse to participate in education research. Problems of Education in the 21st century, 52, 7-20.
- Hansen, M. (2016). Student data privacy and education research must be balanced. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2016/04/01/student-data-privacy-and-education-research-must-be-balanced/
- Josien, L. & Broderick, B. (2013). Cheating in higher education: The case of multi-methods cheaters. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 17(3), 93-105.