Developing Ethical Literacy in Postgraduate Research

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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
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Developing Ethical Literacy in Postgraduate Research


Dr. Judy Whitmarsh

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Educational and Applied Research, University of Wolverhampton
Wolverhampton, West Midlands, UK

After working for many years in school health, I completed a doctorate and then began teaching undergraduates and postgraduates and researching into multidisciplinary aspects of early childhood education. My new post, as research fellow, is exciting and another new challenge. My research interests cover ethics, multiagency working, and health and wellbeing in relation to children and education. Recent research ranges from healthy living interventions in primary schools to exploring how mothers perceive their role in partnership with preschool settings. I live in the country and have four children and numerous grandchildren who keep me busy. Interests, when I have time, include travel, reading and gardening.

Ref: L09P0368