Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 369-383, 1998 Science Ltd. All rights reserved Printed in Great Britain 0191-491X/98 $19.00 + 0.00
AlTlTUDES TOWARD TEACHER-INFORMANTS: ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH AND EVALUATION
Naama Sabar School
Introduction Until the late 1970s it was accepted that all scientific knowledge and wisdom regarding education was concentrated in the universities and their professors. But as we approach the new millennium, we are witnessing at least two trends of change in this perception. The first trend is manifested in the rise of classroom research and school-based evaluation activities focusing on individual experiences and in studies of teaching and learning in their natural context, by making use of teachers’ own observations, reflections, attitudes and perceptions (e.g., Connelly & Clandinin, 1986; Nevo, 1995; Simons, 1987). The second trend, originating in organizational theories, encourages increased research through collaboration between schools and universities for the improvement of knowledge on teaching, learning and school structure (e.g., Holmes Report, 1990). Both trends constitute a move toward joint interpretation and construction of reality by the researcher and the informant. There is a school of thought that claims that qualitative research methods demand special ethical consideration because when researchers enter their informants’ private worlds, a unique and intimate relationship is created (e.g., Bogdan & Biklen, 1982; Lincoln & Guba, 1989; Sabar, 1994; Smith, 1990). As Smith puts it, “ethics has to do with how one treats those individuals with whom one interacts and is involved” (1990, p. 260), and as a result, questions may arise concerning the province and rights of both researcher and informant. This researcher-informant relationship gives rise to ethical problems of a personal as well as a professional nature (Soltis, 1990), which may eventually affect the research findings. As a result, research can never be absolutely neutral or completely unbiased; in the case of qualitative methods, interpretive results may, in addition, be ethically sensitive. Consequently, the ethical dimension is in need of a new interpretation.
Unlike psychological testing, which has been bound by an ethical code for many years (e.g. American Psychological Association, 1973) and despite some references to ethics in the Joint Committee on Standards for educational evaluation (1988), a code of ethics for educational research in general was only defined in 1992 by both the American Education Research Association and the British Educational Research Association and in 1993 by the Australian Association of Research in Education. Since high-status fields such as medicine and law have long had ethical codes and special committees to enforce them, increasing the focus on ethics in the field of education may both increase the ethical awareness of its members and raise the status of education as a discipline. Relating to ethical issues in educational research with teachers has been advocated by several studies (e.g., Lather, 1986; Rudduck & Hopkins, 1985) on the assumption that researchers’ ethical behavior contributes to the socialization of teachers as participants in research as well as to their own professional ethical behavior. This concern is based on a new perception of the role of teacher-informants in more recent research, a role that poses new questions about the relationship between researchers and teachers. It is sometimes assumed that the type of research which leads to uncovering personal beliefs, thoughts and feelings, should be based on a meaningful and reciprocal relationship between both parties. Is this really so? Does this kind of relationship truly call for a special awareness on the part of the researcher and the teacher? On the surface, caring, fairness, openness and truth seem basic prerequisites for the activity of inquiry. But are they really? And do ethical questions arise as a result of conflict between the dimensions of the ensuing relationships? The aim of this preliminary, exploratory study was to reveal how researchers view the teacher-informants with whom they work for the purpose of improving teaching and learning. The study was carried out by placing the researchers themselves in the role of informants, often for the first time, and by encouraging them to reflect on issues of ethical relevance which they had experienced as a consequence of their own studies on teachers. The preliminary data will be employed to trigger elaboration and discussion of the topic. This article surveys the relevant literature, describes the data collection process, and presents, analyzes and discusses the findings.
Literature Background Studies of qualitative research have, during the last two decades, devoted considerable attention to ethical issues, an interest which began to surface in social research long before (e.g., Becker, 1967). Ensuring informed consent and protecting the informant’s anonymity have been dealt with extensively, both by professional societies (e.g., The American Sociological Association) and by individual researchers (among others, Lincoln & Guba, 1989; Soltis, 1990). At present, there is almost universal agreement that these should be considered basic rights (Punch, 1994) when dealing with human subjects. Ethical issues less often addressed are those specific to interpretive research, involving the nature of the collaboration between researcher and informant. These issues deal with such questions as informants’ rights regarding the data collected, their use and publication, as well as ownership of the interpretations offered (see, for example, Bresler, 1997; Lincoln, 1990; Lincoln & Guba, 1989; Noddings, 1986; Rist, 1981). These issues are
still being debated. The section below will review the nature of the collaboration researcher and informant as dealt with in the literature. The Rights of Both Researcher
The perception of the relationship between researcher and informant has been, until recently, dominated by an arrogant approach on the part of many researchers who simply took what they wanted, leaving the respondents vulnerable. At times, this included manipulating and controlling subjects, on the assumption that the researcher knew what was good and actively pursued it (Goodson & Fliesser, 1997). However, there were also other, more egalitarian, approaches. As early as 1966, ethnographer Louis Smith felt the need to include his key teacher-informant as co-author of a book reporting on research in school. Ray Rist (198 l), the social program evaluator and methodologist, argued in the late 1970s that actively including subjects in the research process was long overdue. Lincoln and Guba (1989) have long supported the right of respondents to assist in formulating the purpose of the research and shaping the use of the information they contribute. Among the great advocates of fairer collaboration between teachers and researchers are Connelly, Clandinin and their associates. Clandinin, Davies, Hogan, and Kennard (1994) focus on several important issues in the research relationship: the equality between participants, caring and feelings of connectedness. Connelly and Clandinin (1990) view the negotiations at the beginning of the process of narrative inquiry as a matter of establishing responsibilities for a shared narrative unity; these set the conditions for “a relationship in which both practitioners and researchers feel cared for and have a voice with which to tell their stories” (p. 4). This sense of equality, particularly important in narrative inquiry, is defined by the authors as resulting in a relationship they termed a “caring community”. Noddings (1986) notes that this relationship has value for both researchers and practitioners. A similar approach, which considers practitioners’ contributions to be as important as the researcher’s theoretical contribution, is elaborated by Oakes, Hare and Sirotnik (1986), as well as by Nevo (1995) in his “dialogue evaluation” approach. Sabar (1994) argues that in the case of teacher research, mutual respect and a sense of reciprocity are particularly important because both parties are professionals interested in improving the realm of teaching. Equality, caring, connectedness, and a collaborative relationship, which create a new atmosphere for self-expression, bring out the teacher’s voice as much as that of the researcher. Both can thus better communicate their feelings, thoughts and attitudes, and contribute to the portrayal of a multiple reality through which a better appreciation of the problems, constraints and complexity of teaching can be gamed (Bresler, 1997). In response to the question “Who owns the data?“, Schratz (1993) writes that “data are owned by the persons who provided them”. Thus data “must not be accessible to third persons without their owners’ authorization nor should reports or case studies be published without having given the opportunity to comment to persons concerned with the situation under research” (p. 52). McCutcheon (1990) also defends the teacher-informant’s right to veto elements of both the data collection and the final report, especially the conclusions. Rudduck, a classroom researcher, notes the importance of sharing data as a sign of respect for teachers and students (Rudduck, Chaplam, & Wallace, 1996). She and other classroom
researchers, functioning within a caring relationship, have become more sensitive to teachers’ rights regarding the research prior to publication. Lincoln (1990) takes the egalitarian approach toward informants to the extreme. She believes that researchers can invite respondents to engage in determining what needs to be researched, why, and how to go about it. In exchange for the right to publish and the willingness to waive anonymity, Lincoln assumes that researchers can, and should, give respondents information, power and the tools to use that power, as well as a say in how the information should be used. Egalitarian classroom researchers ground their approach in what May (1980) calls the “covenantal” theory of ethics that acknowledges mutual indebtedness. It emphasizes gratitude, fidelity, commitment and care on the part of researchers toward those whom they study. This obligation - conceived as paramount - to those studied derives from mutual personal exchanges. The above might give the mistaken impression that a sense of mutuality is the prevalent attitude of qualitative researchers, but this is not the case. As Mathison, Ross, and Comett (1993) point out, “seldom does the exchange of commodities create an equally beneficial situation for all involved” (p. 4). Eisner’s stance regarding the final stage of the research, for example, expresses the attitude that there is no room for negotiation over the process and that co-authorship is not even an open question. In the final analysis, the decision to disseminate or publicize should rest with the researcher. . . . Giving someone else the right of approval or disapproval . ..is to undermine the competence of the writer whose name is on the work (199 1, p. 115). Even the code of ethics of the Australian Association of Research in Education, which often shows greater sensitivity than its US counterpart toward teacher-informants’ rights and the acknowledgment of their contributions, states that data, results and conclusions belong to the researchers who designed and constructed the study unless other specific arrangements are made. As a researcher who values informants’ place in the research greatly, yet had never made a teacher a true partner, I was curious to find out about the attitudes of other researchers regarding collaboration and how far, if at all, they were ready to go. My own view, shaped through years of research experience, is that when practitioners’ contributions become the key to research problems, and the school becomes the primary site for collaboration, knowledge construction emerges from both practice and theory. Therefore, respect and mutual dependency are crucial from the earliest phases of the research. Nevertheless, as regards the final stage of the research, in those cases when practitioners do not have research skills, I agree with Eisner. This, however, should not preclude paying close attention to practitioners’ comments on and interpretation of the research findings, and acknowledging their contribution. Methodology The literature review reflects views and attitudes regarding the nature of collaboration and the ethical issues involved, expressed by researchers from various scholarly traditions and research foci. But what, specifically, are the views of researchers whose research foci are teachers, their thought processes, attitudes, perceptions, etc.? How
do these researchers perceive their relationships with their teacher-informants? How do professional evaluators coming into schools for evaluation purposes perceive teachers and students? Are these perceptions considered to have any bearing? An attempt to examine these issues led me to formulate the following question: What are the ethical attitudes of researchers who are members of one research community toward their informants? What factors affect their attitudes? What factors explain the differences? Population
To discover the attitudes of one research community whose research focus may raise ethical issues in the investigation process, I approached close to 40 researchers from 13 different nations in the field of teacher cognition research and asked them to answer questionnaires or participate in individual interviews dealing with ethical issues in research on teachers. All the researchers agreed without hesitation. Of the researchers, 60% were female; three were younger researchers in their late thirties, more than half were in their forties, and the rest were over fifty with many years of research experience. Instruments Interviews
Initially, 1. 2. 3. 4.
a small group of researchers was asked four probing questions:
Have you encountered ethical dilemmas while studying teacher cognition, and if so, can you give examples? Do you view the teacher-informant as a research partner? To what extent do you share the research objectives with the teacher-informant? How do you view the effect of the research process on the teacher-informant?
The interviews (toward which many of the researchers expressed uneasiness) lasted about an hour and were recorded with the researchers’ consent. They were encouraged to reflect on their own ideas, provide vignettes or examples based on their own experience with ethical problems, and to raise new questions regarding ethical concerns in research. On the basis of the data collected through the interviews, a semi-structured questionnaire with space for free expression was designed which included the first three questions above. The transcripts of the interviews were analyzed qualitatively in two stages: detailed categorization of statements, episodes and complete interviews concerning the attitudes of the researchers; open, axial and selective coding of data, including definition of core categories, similar to the constant comparative method (Strauss, 1987), according to which the themes and patterns emerging from the data were identified, clarified and verified. The questionnaires were completed anonymously and responses were analyzed qualitatively. The following section presents the central issues that emerged. The data presented are drawn from both interviews and questionnaires.
Findings Researchers’ responses fell largely into three areas: 1) awareness of ethical issues, 2) the nature of the partnership between the researcher and the teacher-informant and 3) the influence of the researcher’s intervention on teacher cognition. This article will focus on the nature of the partnership mainly because data on this question were most extensive, probably due to its somewhat provocative nature. Overview Less than one-third of the 37 participating researchers responded negatively to the question, “Do you view your teacher-informant as a research partner?” Substantially more female than male participants responded positively to this question, and the older researchers tended to respond negatively more than the younger ones. Most of the researchers described the notion of partnership as restricted and noted that their experience of partnership was either limited or entirely lacking. Of those who opposed the notion of partnership, one even called it a “hypocritical way of looking at [the researcher-teacher] relationship”. Respondents’ interpretations of the partnership varied from the most basic perception of teacher-informants as instruments for obtaining information (“contributors to the body of knowledge”), through viewing them as “partners in interpretation”, to the ultimate view considering teacher-informants as active partners throughout the research, who would receive accreditation and publicity (“partners in constructing a case study”). One researcher who did not view his teacher-informant as a partner, explained his view with the simple statement, “They [teachers] have another profession”, while another pointed out that teachers “are not usually familiar with research work” and admitted that she used them “more as a tool”. On the other end of the scale, one researcher emphasized the ethical aspect of this position: “[The teachers] own the observations and are my colleagues and should have some control”. Another stated: “Educational research is collaborative and should not be parasitic.” This respondent was concerned about the possible development of a one-sided relationship, which would deprive the teacherinformant of any benefit. We can see that the responses varied greatly. While the researchers did not totally reject the notion of “the teacher-informant as a partner”, most stated that teachers were not trained for tasks in the research process. Further analysis of the data revealed two crucial aspects of the issue of partnership: the difference in status between researcher and teacherinformant, and the lack of mutuality in the partnership (such as the unequal contribution of each to the construction of new knowledge). Difference Several researchers when describing the nature interaction with a different classifies and defines the
commented on the different positions of researcher and teacher of the partnership (see above). For example: “Each comes to the status; the teacher contributes his/her story and the researcher new knowledge”; “It is important for the researcher to avoid
giving an impression of superiority.. . This leads to alienation.. . You can’t pretend you are interested in the teacher’s opinion if you are not, teachers sense it immediately”. In spite of the fact that the status difference stands out especially when researchers use studentteachers as informants, and that almost all of the researchers were in some way concerned with teacher education, only one researcher raised the problem of the researcher’s position of power relative to that of the student-teachers when the researcher is also the teacher trainer. However, many mentioned the power difference between academic researchers and school people among their dilemmas. Researehers also mentioned the politics of power and knowledge, sensitivity to power over ethnic groups, and the natural tendency of those who are knowledgeable - the researchers - to patronize. Several researchers commented on the fact that it is almost always one party who asks the questions: “This one-sidedness creates the feeling that the teacher is being tested, that we are on opposite sides of the fence, especially since we question their subject matter knowledge at a time when they are not always actually teaching the specific topic in class. This may well make them feel uneasy.” An additional concern regarding the issue of status differences is the extent to which researchers feel ready to reveal the true purpose of the study to teacher-informants when obtaining informed consent. When one shares the research objectives with informants prior to receiving their consent to carrying out the study, one faces the problem of research validity or truthfulness. Not surprisingly, most of the researchers who viewed teacherinformants as partners expressed willingness to share their research objectives with their subjects, while researchers who held the opposite view tended not to share their objectives. Less than one fourth of the researchers stated that they would fully share their objectives with their teacher-informants. A similar number were willing to do so to a large extent. Some justified this response by mentioning its contribution to the research procedure itself: “It facilitates data collection”, or: “It motivates teachers to participate” or: “This way they do not feel threatened by the process or product”. The following examples specifically refer to the ethical aspects of the research process: “Anyone who does not know the true research objectives can’t be called a real partner”; “They own the observations and are my colleagues and should have some control” or: “The opposite attitude would be immoral” or: “Everything is open at the beginning; this gives them the opportunity to withdraw”. One researcher noted that because she did not “want to do research on teachers but with teachers”, she fully explained the research agenda and asked her informants what they wanted to know about it. In contrast, very few respondents tended not to share their objectives at all, and the rest responded that “It depends”. Most justified this as a way of minimizing the effect of bias on the teacher-informants. Some qualified their position with methodological considerations such as “It depends on the purpose of the research,” or: “After data collection it is all right to share objectives” or: “Up to a point, so as not to get only what the informant thinks I would like to get”. One respondent noted that she did not share her objectives at all if she was “trying to trace information, corroborate or disconfirm another account”, but she would if she wanted to introduce change. Those who were studying pedagogical subject matter knowledge (PSMK) had no problem in sharing the research objectives with their teacher-informants. This appears
reasonable because research focusing on PSMK is less likely to be susceptible to bias than studies of teacher attitudes, thinking processes, misconceptions, etc. Mutuality
of the Partnership
and Joint Construction
of New Knowledge
The issue of partnership in knowledge construction was mentioned by a small number of respondents who noted that at the beginning of the interaction between researchers and teacher-informants, the latter have a certain advantage, since the study depends entirely on their willingness to share their stories. However, after the information has been conveyed, there is a definite shift of power to the researcher, a transformation in the researcher/participant relationship that works in both directions (Bresler, 1997). It was those few researchers who acknowledged their gain from the teachers’ own observations and interpretations who also acknowledged their contribution: “The researcher doesn’t have a monopoly on wisdom”. Even though there were those who accepted the idea that informants construct new knowledge together with the researcher, most neither considered asking for the informant’s interpretation of the findings before publication (“Because it doesn’t work that way,” as one said), nor did they mention the idea of publicly acknowledging the teacher’s contribution. Only two researchers, when asked in the interview, considered the possibility of doing so in the future. All justified their stand by pointing to the advantage of anonymity to the teacher. Almost all said they had no objections to showing teachers both the results and their interpretation before publishing the report, though they were unwilling to commit themselves to accepting all of the teachers’ reactions. Only two had actually taken this initiative in the past. It would be natural to expect researchers who use open observations followed by interviews as part of a qualitative paradigm (as many of the respondents do) to view informants’ interpretations as an integral part of the interpretive research approach. However, joint construction of new knowledge (by researcher and teacher) was mentioned by only three researchers. Of these three, one researcher distinguished between the teacher as research object and as a partner in constructing new knowledge: “If you approach a teacher in the sense of ‘I have come to study you,’ this is not a partnership, but if you mean ‘Let’s build the story together,’ as in the narrative method, that is a partnership.” The other researcher described the whole research encounter as “mutual collaboration”. In her view, interdependence was such that the new knowledge constructed through the research should be viewed as a joint endeavor. She also thought that such collaboration “contributes to the The third researcher who referred to this issue teacher’s professional development”. expressed a different view. She described the contribution of the teacher-informant in terms of what the researcher can learn from the teacher’s interpretation: “They have alternative perspectives to mine.... Behavior is often complex and there are several layers of interpretation that are valid and provide insight into complexity.” Not surprisingly, this is the researcher who described her work as “not on, but with, teachers”.
Discussion The findings indicate that there is considerable variability in ethical attitudes toward teacher-informants among qualitative researchers within the international teacher-cognition community, despite their shared research focus and guidelines. This seems to indicate that professional association does not, in itself, create shared ethical attitudes. An interesting finding in its own right is that researchers, so accustomed to interviewing others - and often taking for granted the interviewee’s acceptance of the interview - appear to feel uneasy when being interviewed themselves. This was expressed in the initially defensive reaction of half of the researchers interviewed, irrespective of their stated willingness to be interviewed. One fundamental question, which emerges from these findings, is: “When and under what conditions are researchers’ attitudes toward teacher-informants influenced in one direction or another?” No generally accepted ethical code seems to guide the researchers, who appear to follow their own ethical conceptions, based on individual professional practice. In fact, when asked about the ethical aspects of their work, many had to consider the question for a long time before responding. Such ethical considerations as they do entertain are affected by a number of factors: among these are gender, research experience and focus, and the stage of the research. Sex of the Researcher As can be inferred from the examples cited and the extent to which researchers view teacher-informants as partners, female researchers showed greater ethical awareness of the position of the teacher-informant than did rnale researchers. Female researchers recounted specific situations of ethical concern that had arisen during research with teacherinformants. They were also more positive than males in viewing their teacher-informant as a partner in the research, and more willing to share research objectives and accept teachers’ interpretations of the findings. An explanation for these differences may be found in certain contemporary feminist theories, which associate feminine thinking with emotion and, in particular, caring, i.e., responsibility, empathy, worry and inclination (Gilligan, 1982). Bresler (1997) states that “It is only through connection with others that one is able to see or hear others in their own terms. Thus, any attempt to achieve understanding of an emit perspective has to be based on care” (p. 5). Noddings (1984, p. 95) claims that gender differences implicit in ethical perceptions are reflected in the fact that abstract causal thinking underlies men’s ethical reasoning, while women tend to approach ethical issues in concrete terms as human problems, and base their approach on empathy and caring. This caring attitude may have been magnified in the present study as we are dealing mainly with a female-to-female researcher/informant relationship. This is a notion worth exploring in cases where a female researcher encounters male teacher-informants. It is only fair, however, to mention that there are male researchers who share these egalitarian attitudes, as is illustrated by Goodson and Fliesser’s (1997) concern over working toward a “fair trade” between university researchers’ and teachers’ interests.
We found that less experienced researchers expressed greater readiness to cooperate with teacher-informants in the research process than did their more experienced colleagues. This difference is not surprising since younger people tend to be more sensitive to issues of justice, a tendency which lessens with age (Schwartz, 1973). Another possible explanation of the difference in attitudes between younger and older researchers is that, contrary to their older colleagues, younger researchers, we may assume, were exposed to interpretive research methods during their formal education. These younger researchers may well have been exposed to critical theory, postmodernism and feminism in the social sciences. All these have given new meaning to concepts like control, power, social structure, etc. Hence, they are more skeptical regarding the moral authority of science and of science as a source of “good” for all. Thus, it would be quite natural for them to expect the teacher-informants’ interpretation to be integral to the construction of meaning. This approach is significantly different from that prevalent during the 1950’s and 1960’s, when the older researchers were trained. Their training followed the positivist paradigm in which rules are observed and measures taken to ensure distance from the studied phenomenon, thus enabling “objectivity”. The positivist approach tends to assume that there is one “reality” or “truth” which can be uncovered by a properly equipped researcher who is therefore qualified to construct knowledge. This may partially explain why veteran researchers, in order to ensure “objectivity”, tended to view the teachers’ role as being relevant only in the data collection stage of the research. Although both gender and novice-expert differences throw an interesting light on researchers’ ethics, the validity of these effects should be tested on a larger scale. Research Stage
Researchers’ attitudes toward the researcher-teacher relationship change and vary according to the stage of research. There is a distinct shift of power from the teacherinformant to the researcher as the research progresses. Initially, the researcher is wholly dependent on the cooperation of the teacher-informant; after the data-gathering stage, however, the latter’s importance diminishes and the researcher’s status increases to the point that s/he may be unwilling to accept the teacher’s interpretation, or even to cooperate with or credit the teacher in the report. As Bresler (1997) puts it, after data collection, at the stage of formal data analysis, and, even more, during the writing of the report, the interaction begins to dwindle and the focus of attention is transposed from the informant to the scholarly community. The majority of researchers in our study do not reach the level of “mutual construction of knowledge”. Many teacher researchers have yet to seriously consider the substantive and political justification for genuine partnership, particularly the substantial contribution of practitioner knowledge. In such circumstances, teachers’ reflections, interpretations and explanations are not incorporated into new knowledge construction. The strengths of the qualitative paradigm - the possibility of achieving a multiple reality - are under-used. While their broader perspective cannot be ignored in justifying the researchers’ right to interpret the research findings, there is still room to encourage teacher-informants
to provide feedback, certainly regarding those sections of the report relating to their own “stories”, but also, regarding the larger picture from their viewpoints. This additional input could serve as a source of new ideas or interpretations which the researcher might not otherwise have arrived at. One example of this contribution is the assessment of the extent to which recommendations are practical or relevant. We found that researchers often justified the absence of accreditation by referring to protection of the teacher-informant’s anonymity in the wake of intimate questioning. While many qualitative researchers conceal the informant’s identity a priori, others, like Shulman (1990) weigh the ethical consequences of anonymity versus visibility.
Summary and Conclusions This exploratory study was carried out in order to increase the awareness of some of the usually tacitly held ethical attitudes of researchers and professional evaluators who study teachers and teaching. The ethical implications of research carried out in collaboration with teachers should be incorporated into our agenda both when training new researchers and in teacher education programs so that teachers can enter the research relationship with greater awareness. Teachers - and particularly student-teachers - should be conscious that their contribution to the research is crucial. This understanding should increase their confidence that research on teaching is truly a joint endeavor. On the other hand, they must also be aware that they may not be compelled by researchers to participate in research. Furthermore, introducing prospective teachers to research on teaching by exposing them to published research and the changes achieved as a result of the issues studied may also encourage them to become more reflective practitioners. Such exposure may thus contribute to their confidence in conducting their own action research, a trend which is on the increase among teachers. Much like the qualitative researchers mentioned in the literature survey, the informants in this study varied in their ethical attitudes toward their teacher-informants. Moreover, similar to the literature on researchers adopting a more egalitarian approach, a number of the informants here showed some readiness to reconsider their ethical attitudes when asked to rationalize their responses. However, the immediate reactions of most respondents to the questions posed were non-equity-oriented and basically utilitarian. In practice, apparently, due to differences in status and vulnerability, as well as researcher attitudes, the teacher-informant is not considered a true partner in the conduct of a majority of research projects. Clarifying the meaning of partnership in research on teachers may contribute to cooperation based on honesty and mutual respect. Nevo’s (1995) suggestion that a new discourse of evaluation is needed to create a dialogue between external school evaluators and internal school evaluators (usually teachers) may be an important step in this direction. This examination may lead to an ethical determination that receiving teacherinformant comments on the research, prior to publication, is a must, though divulging full research objectives at the initial stages is not always desirable because of its strong effect on shaping teachers’ responses. Hence, detailing the specific ethical issues entailed in the research partnership is of extreme importance. Regardless of the stance taken toward partnership, researchers must acknowledge the fact that without teacher-informants, there
could be no research and no construction of new knowledge. This is the true meaning of a collegial process. Clarifying the parties’ responsibilities in advance, tedious and timeconsuming though this may be, is essential to it. In each particular case, researchers and teachers should define together what kind of collaboration is intended - taking into account that this may change in the course of the study - and what kind of responsibility this entails. Nevo (1995) points to a two-way relationship, a process of mutual learning through dialogue: “The parties involved are not necessarily equal in their authority, but there is symmetry in the assumption that each has something to learn from the other” (p. 189). Such a process is based on, as well as conducive to, building trust. It is trust in the researcher, not merely the perception of the researcher’s power, that teacher-informants need in order to place their participation on solid grounds. Trust, therefore, is one of the ethical foundations bestowing legitimacy on the entire research effort. A written code of ethics alone, however, will not make the difference; it is the research community’s ethos and each individual researcher’s ethical stance as reflected in his/her research and evaluation activities, that is crucial. Clearly, ethical issues have been neither sufficiently nor coherently considered by the educational research community; much is still done intuitively. It is hoped that this investigation of researchers’ views regarding various ethical aspects of educational research will lead to the development of ethical guidelines, more appropriate to the twenty-first century. Since our approach to the coming century seems to be characterized by uncertainty and instability in education, as in other areas of life, maintaining ethical guidelines is essential for sustained orientation. This study may also encourage public discussion of the teacher-practitioner role in the knowledge-generating process and its implications on educational research and on the relationship between internal and external school evaluation, as well as on the ethical values of the teachers themselves. Based on the wide range of attitudes uncovered, rather than propounding rigorous conclusions, this study offers the following recommendations: 1. 2. 3. 4.
To foster and encourage further discussion and consideration of ethics within the professional research and evaluation community. To define the responsibilities of both researchers and teacher-informants in the process of teacher- and teaching-research. To introduce ethical issues into teacher-education programs, thereby offering future teachers a forum to discuss their role and status in research on teaching. To devise an appropriate methodology for studying the subject of ethics in educational research.
The time seems to be ripe for the new generation of educational researchers to adopt ethical convictions based on democratic and emancipatory principles. Teachers, then, would be listened to more closely and involved more thoroughly as partners. This perception of collegiality would contribute to multiplying the perspectives of knowledge construction in teaching and perhaps alter conservative attitudes without lessening either the credibility or the prestige of the research community.
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The Author NAAMA SABAR is an Associate Professor at the School of Education, Tel Aviv University, where she also heads the unit of school based curriculum development. Her fields of interest are qualitative research and evaluation, ethics in research, and evaluation and schools’ autonomy. Currently she heads a qualitative evaluation project in the Upper Galilee, part of Israel’s major science and technology project for the year 2000.