The special challenges of researching teaching and learning
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We’re passionate about teaching and learning and equally passionate about evidence-based medicine. So, it follows that we’re also interested in evidence-based teaching methods. That translates into interest in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at the School of Medicine.
This means we have teachers interested in conducting research studies about their teaching and in finding better ways to help students learn. This is a particularly challenging type of research that raises unique issues about power, confidentiality, captive populations, and the burden on participants.
The Queen’s General Research Ethics Board (GREB) issued a four-page guideline document on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in June 2017.
As much of the research conducted by those involved in the UGME program focuses on SoTL – and the HSREB is aligned with the Queen’s GREB – these Guidelines are relevant to research considerations for both faculty, staff, and student-led projects.
The Guidelines document draws attention to studies with direct student involvement, as well as self-studies, which both have implications for student privacy, including during the research dissemination process.
For studies with direct student involvement, other considerations that are highlighted include:
The power-over relationships between instructors/researchers and students can impact the students’ decision to participate in the research. This differential can be managed by keeping the instructors/researchers at arm’s length from the students by person or time [with suggestions provided]
This term can be applied when participants are dependent on an ‘authority figure’ (e.g., instructor/researcher) who can infringe on their freedom to make decisions. [Guideline include ways to mitigate this risk.]
The main purpose of formal education is for students to gain knowledge, not to be participants in research. If students are repeatedly asked to participate in research studies, their educational pursuits may be compromised. It may be of value for instructors/researchers to consider what other types of research are being conducted with students to diminish the impact of participant burden. Also, instructors/researchers should try to design studies that help enrich the students’ educational experiences instead of distracting from those experiences.
Students may have concerns about whether or not their instructors/researchers know if they took part in the research. Students may feel their decision not to participate in the research could impact their academic trajectory. [Includes suggestions for how to mitigate this risk].
[Excerpts from pages 2-3 of the Guideline]
If you’re interested in creating a study related to your teaching in the UGME program, feel free to get in touch with the Education Team to talk through some of these challenges. We’re here to help.