The Moral Foundations of Educational Research: Knowledge, Inquiry, and Values

By Pat Sikes; Jon Nixon et al. | Go to book overview

4
The virtues and vices of an
educational researcher

Richard Pring


Introduction

Educational researchers are becoming increasingly conscious of the ethical dimension of their research. Unlike medical and nursing researchers, they do not yet have their 'ethical committees' to check the acceptability of research proposals. But the British Educational Research Association and the American Educational Research Association have drawn up codes of conduct – principles and rules that should guide the research from an ethical point of view. Furthermore, it is now usually expected that research theses will explain what the ethical issues are in the conduct of the research and how the researchers ensured that appropriate standards of conduct were maintained.

This chapter examines this ethical dimension and questions whether it is sufficient to think in terms of principles, codes and rules. It may be more important, from an ethical point of view, to consider much more carefully the virtues of the researcher than the principles he or she espouses. In so arguing, I first examine four examples and, in the light of these, reflect on the role of principles and virtues in the exercise of research.


Examples

The undercover bouncer

In the recent book, Danger in the Field: Risk and Ethics in Social Research, David Calvey (2000) described how, in his undercover research to explore the 'cultural practice, work culture and social organisation' of club bouncers,1 he secretly tape-recorded conversations and recorded assaults, drug-taking and other crimes. His role as a researcher had to be disguised – discovery might literally have been fatal. Therefore, what he learnt (and

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