“Teachers who act also as scholars of teaching and learning in the practice of their discipline must consider the ethics of their dual roles in situations in which their students are also their subjects of research” (MacLean & Poole 2010: 1).
SoTL research has the potential to provide insights into student learning while at the same time intrude on their learning. This tension is compounded by the unequal relationship between the researcher and his or her students in a context where the researcher likely has more to gain from the experiment than they. For these reasons, adopting the highest ethical standards is paramount. In particular, the researcher must ensure that all students are given the opportunity for free, informed and ongoing consent, the right to privacy, and fair and equitable treatment. Every decision regarding their educational experience, whether it is part of habitual teaching or a research protocol, should be designed to improve their learning (MacLean & Poole 2010: 2). Only when these principles are demonstrably met can the requirements of the research be served.
Respect for human dignity is the core value that governs all research involving human participants. The role of research ethics boards is to evaluate research proposals involving human participants to insure that the protocol meets its moral obligations. Three principles, as laid out by the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, guide their review: