Reconceptualizing participant vulnerability in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning research: exploring the perspectives of health faculty students in Aotearoa New Zealand

Amanda Lees, Rosemary Godbold, Simon Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

While the need to protect vulnerable research participants is universal, conceptual challenges with the notion of vulnerability may result in the under or over-protection of participants. Ethics review bodies making assumptions about who is vulnerable and in what circumstance can be viewed as paternalistic if they do not consider participant viewpoints. Our study focuses on participant vulnerability in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) research. We aim to illuminate students’ views on participant vulnerability to contribute to critical analysis of the role and processes of ethics review. Additionally, we aim to highlight the importance of seeking the views of participant communities, especially in research environments beyond ethics review’s medical origins. Thirty-four students from a health-related faculty at a university in Aotearoa New Zealand, participated in five focus groups. Participants discussed factors affecting their potential participation in research drawing upon a series of vignettes based on examples of published SoTL projects. Themes, generated using reflexive thematic analysis, built a participant-informed picture of vulnerability. Findings indicate that students do not generally consider themselves vulnerable and instead consider participation in SoTL research through an agentic lens. Students expect that participation will be voluntary, not negatively impact their grades, and not single them out so that others could judge them. Our study also highlights the value students place on relationships with one another and teaching staff and the implications these have for SoTL research participation and future professional practice. This research challenges research ethics committees to think further about vulnerability in the context of SoTL whilst highlighting the importance of providing opportunities for research participants more broadly to explore and vocalize their views as members of participant communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalResearch Ethics
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
  • ethical conduct
  • participant community
  • students
  • vulnerability

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