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Undue Influence and Student Confidentiality

Cases may arise in which a teacher has chosen to conduct research on the teacher's own class that is not considered exempt under normal educational practice and for which student assent will be required by the Board.  Since teachers are authority figures in the classroom and assign grades to the students they will be asking to participate in their research, the Board is concerned that students may feel unduly influenced to participate.  Issues of confidentiality are also problematic.  If this is the case, the study should be designed to either blind the teacher or administer to the students’ identities or the students should consent to release their materials after the grades for the course have been assigned.  This same situation could arise in the case of an administrator studying teachers.  In the case where the researcher is considered a supervisor or an authority figure over the participants, the researcher should devise a way to blind him or herself to the participants’ identities. The researcher should also make sure that the participant can withdraw from the study anonymously.

This issue also arises for adult students in a college or university setting where a professor is using students as participants in his or her research. For more information, please see the Student Participants section.

The Board recognizes that a school district will most likely act to benefit their students and is unlikely to approve of a study that wastes student time.  The Board will consider the recommendations of the school district in determining whether a study qualifies as normal educational practice.

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