Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

By Richard Sagor | Go to book overview

12 Methodological and Ethical Issues

At this point many of you may be asking, [All this sounds fine for the teachers, but how will parents react when they hear we are experimenting with their children?] This important question needs to be squarely addressed. Answering it involves an examination of two intertwined issues: research methodology and the ethical obligations of teacher researchers. Let's begin by considering a largely methodological question that has significant ethical overtones:

Is it appropriate for teachers to use experimental methods with their
students?


Experimental Designs

You may wonder, [When is it proper to use students as guinea pigs?] That sounds like an appropriate question, particularly because throughout this text I have framed action research as a quasi-experimental science. However, I would argue that this question arises only when teacher research is viewed through the wrong lens.

Teaching is above all a sacred responsibility—a calling that is governed by licensure, professional ethics, and codes of professional conduct. Fundamentally, each of these ethical codes demands that teachers as professionals continuously provide each student with the best learning experiences that they know how to deliver. To deny any child access to a quality educational practice for any reason is not only abrogating their professional duty, but places that child at a disadvantage. No concern for scientific precision or research methodology should ever take precedence over the obligation to provide each child with the best possible teaching.

The [guinea pig] issue arises most often when action researchers believe that the only way to determine the quality of an innovative

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