Developing Ethical Literacy in Postgraduate Research
The postmodern university in the UK draws on a wide variety of national and international students, many from non-traditional backgrounds; most universities range across a number of campuses, delivering courses on and off campus by traditional methods, via the Internet and distance learning. Post-graduate students in education work in a huge variety of different contexts: some work in mainstream educational settings from early years through to higher education, others deliver education in prisons, hospitals, non-governmental organisations, business or factories. All students however, studying for a Master’s or doctoral degree require ethical consent to their research.
The current process of gaining ethical consent however conforms to a western, educational model based on values of autonomy, confidentiality and informed consent. This paper asks whether the current model of ethical consent and current codes of ethics offer sufficient flexibility to support this diverse range of students in managing the complexities of producing ethical research.
Drawing on an ongoing study, examining how postgraduate students gain ethical consent to their research, this paper will first briefly review issues of gaining consent for cross-disciplinary research; secondly, it will discuss the concept of ‘informed consent’ with particular reference to cultural differences in conceptual understanding and research practice; finally, it will highlight some of the inherent tensions in the current UK process before making a plea for the nurture of ethical literacy in post-graduate research programmes.
Keywords: Postgraduate Students, Ethical Literacy
Dr. Judy Whitmarsh
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Educational and Applied Research, University of Wolverhampton