Research Ethics & SoTL at UofT

Research Ethics & SoTL at U of T

“SoTL brings with it the need for careful thought and decision-making about questions that arise when teachers treat their classroom as sites of scholarly investigation – questions about informed consent, the use of student work, and the impact on audiences and policy-making.” (Hutchings, 2002)

SoTL research primarily addresses the impact of one’s teaching practice upon student learning. Research on students requires careful planning to ensure that several ethical issues are clearly within U of T’s institutional requirements and processes. Often, instructors new to SoTL have previously focused their research upon animal studies, or historical documents for example and perceive the research ethics process as a hurdle to be overcome in reaching their goal: to conduct research on students.

The following workshop video addresses a wide range of ethical topics: November 24th 2015 SoTL Workshop: Research Ethics: Classrooms as Sites of Inquiry with Michelle Craig, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Computer Science, Research Ethics Board Member (former). View the workshop video.

Key Research Ethics Documents

The following section provides important links to documents that address commonly asked questions from U of T instructors interested in conducting inquiry into their teaching.

University of Toronto Consent Guide

Determining exemption from research ethics review:
Activities that in the first instance constitute program evaluation, quality assurance (QA) or quality improvement (QI) within the mandate of an organization or office, or that constitute standard professional practice or reflective practice, may be exempt from research ethics review under the federal research ethics guidelines, the Tri-council policy statement: Ethical conduct for research involving humans, 2nd Edition (TCPS-2), Article 2.5 and UT’s Principles to determine exemption from research ethics review.

Different scenarios may be relevant:
Consult FIPPA-compliant notice of collection/use of personal information.  This may also be helpful to understand the original context for consent if the particular activity in question is initially undertaken in the context of program evaluation/QA/QI or standard professional practice, but may later have research interest, in which cases it may make sense to anticipate possible future research use as part of the initial notice

If somewhere down the line research were to involve secondary research use of information previously collected in the context of program evaluation/QA/QI, and the information were in identifiable form, researchers should submit a protocol  to cover secondary research use of identifiable information, consistent with the TCPS-2, Article 5.5.

If the information in question were not in identifiable form—e.g., because the original activity involved an anonymous survey—secondary research use of anonymous information may be exempt from research ethics review under the TCPS-2, Article 2.4.

If researchers know in advance that the activity they are planning will involve research, then they should submit a protocol in advance, making provision for free-an-informed consent to research on the part of the participants.  This should also address any instructor-researcher conflict of interest and how to manage it—e.g., by avoiding direct recruitment and remaining blind to who participates and what they say until after grades have been finalized, consistent with UT’s guidelines on this issue.

Teacher-Researcher Conflict of Interest

Office of Research Ethics procedures:
Including procedures for undergrad student-initiated protocols and undergrad and graduate course-template assignment protocols—scroll down to Course-based research (Delegated Ethics Review Committees).

University of Toronto data security and encryption standards:
http://www.research.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/documents/2013/05/datasecurity1.pdf
http://www.utoronto.ca/security/UTORprotect/encryption_guidelines.htm

Principal Investigator Eligibility