About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ethics and Research Completed in Developing Country Contexts: The Human Ethic

In a few weeks, a colleague and I will be presenting at the University of Waterloo on our experience in engaging in research in developing country contexts ... in my case, Haiti. We have been asked to present to the UW Research Ethics Board.

In Canada, researchers need to consider the various ethical aspects to their research. For example, if I am conducting research with children, I need to consider the kinds of questions I am asking, where I would be meeting with the children, and the position of power I may be perceived to have and how this may impact on their responses.

Before I conduct research in Canada, I have to submit a very thorough application to the research ethics board at my university. They review my application and determine items I need to address before they approve it. I am then obligated to conduct my research in alignment with what I have proposed. When the research is completed, I submit a report to indicate that I have completed the research in an ethically sound way and which mirrors my application.

Although not a perfect system, it certainly minimizes the potential of doing research "badly" and "unethically."

When I conduct research in Haiti (for example, I have interviewed principals for case studies on their school leadership experiences), I still complete a research ethics application at Laurier, the university at which I work in Canada. However, there is rarely a parallel ethics board within the Haitian context that would ensure I was completing the research in a manner that is suitable/ethical for the Haitian context. A Haitian ethics committee would want to know, for example, am I respecting the language of my participants? Their socio-cultural context? Am I viewed to be in a position of power that might effect the responses of the participants? How might the results of the research impact the participants directly or indirectly? Am I representing their viewpoints accurately?

These are really important questions that I am extremely sensitive to. Even if there is no ethics boards or established protocols, I am bound even more deeply to a human ethic that compels me to treat my research in Haiti as if it was being completed in my own backyard (the golden rule).

The following quote has provided me with a framework by which to engage in research in Haiti:

“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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