Ethical enigmas: co-researching with teachers.


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For educational researchers, working with practicing teachers through a co-research model can present an abundance of ethical dilemmas which often need to be overcome. In subject-specific literature, the step-by-step ethical process that the researcher planned and experienced is frequently omitted, with priority often given to findings. This can result in a gap of understanding and practical knowledge for early career researchers in particular. It is proposed in this presentation that a more open dialogue between educational researchers can be seen as a potential contributor towards a solution to this problem.

This presentation will be framed within the context of my PhD research project which seeks to explore perceptions of how Professor Lucy Green’s (2008) model of informal learning has been implemented, understood and experienced by music teachers and their students in secondary schools. Within each case study school of this project, a co-research element was incorporated into the methodological design with teachers. This relationship was akin to the insider-outsider co-research model that Blacksmith and Reno (2000) described. Each of the teachers were ‘insiders’ as they were entirely situated within the case schools, where my own positioning was as an ‘insider-outsider’ researcher – an ‘insider’ as an ex-music teacher myself, but also an ‘outsider’ as a researcher who was not a part of the specific school contexts.

Although such an approach has enabled an abundance of advantages for this PhD project, including greater access to teacher priorities and student perspectives through personalisation, the research journey has not been without challenge. Ethical enigmas which have been encountered throughout conduction of this PhD project and raised question include:

• How can a balance be struck between involving teachers and students enough, particularly within a co-research model, without becoming too intrusive?
• How can findings be presented in a sensitive way to teachers when they are not wholly positive?
• To what extent can an impartial stance be held by an insider-outsider researcher when conducting observations within the school environment?
o How can impartiality be maximised within this context to enhance the trustworthiness of data?
• What are the ethical implications of conducting a research project in schools on a topic area, like informal learning, that can be seen as dissonant within the current political climate ?
o And how, if at all, can these be overcome?

Although these remain open questions to which I believe there are no right or wrong answers or solutions to, they will be explored in greater depth within this presentation, along with some of the actions I have taken to address these questions whilst conducting my PhD research project. Colleague contribution through means of discussion and questioning will be encouraged to continue debate on this topic area.

GREEN, L., 2008. Music, informal learning and the school: a new classroom pedagogy. Ashgate: Aldershot.
THOMAS, M.D., BLACKSMITH, J. and RENO, J., 2000. Pearls, Pith, and Provocation: Utilizing Insider-Outsider Research Teams in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Health Research [online]. 10 (6), pp. 819-828. Available from: [Accessed 15 December 2015].
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventAnnual Conference for Research In Education (ACRE) - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jul 201711 Jul 2017


ConferenceAnnual Conference for Research In Education (ACRE)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • research
  • education


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