Ethical form revision

I personally find that the ethical approval process is quite overwhelming. After filling the forms after forms and compiling all supporting documents I submitted everything to the committee in April. I heard back from a reviewer on May 21st that I had to make some minor adjustments before my ethical forms can be approved. These adjustments are as follows:

1. The study requires quite a significant commitment and may cause some disruption for participants. Observation for some teachers can be somewhat threatening on occasions and the recording process may intensify this aspect, as well as creating moderate disruption in order to meet the demands of the recording process. I therefore think this needs to be flagged as an ethical issue at 2.5 and then more detail given on why this commitment is required and how the potential inconvenience will be mitigated later in the form (eg at 5.3 and/or 6.1.2).

2. Given the small number of participants, is there not also a possibility that they will be identifiable by their colleagues when findings are published? A sentence or two on whether or not this is
perceived to be a problem and how the issue might be dealt with in the study could be added.

3. I may have missed them – quite a number of separate files were submitted – but I don’t remember seeing (i) the questionnaire, (ii) the advert, which I would see as being different from the PIS and (Iii) any information about the types of data that might be recorded manually during the observations. These will need to be included and their location flagged clearly within the application form.

4. At 6.3 it should be made clear whether a or b has been completed.

5. At 6.4.1, as it can be difficult to predict why a study may not be completed, it may be worth adding the standard wording: ‘Any unforeseen harm that cannot be resolved.’

After seeking advice from Richard, I have revised some bids regarding the suggestion no. 1 and 2 as below:

1) Participants’ privacy

It is possible that my participants will be identifiable by their colleagues after the results have been published and some of the participants’ responses might lead to a professional repercussion. Hence, unless I am directed otherwise by my participating teachers and institution, I will use pseudonyms and try to obscure the details that might lead to the identification of the teachers and the university thereby safeguarding their reputations should any aspect of my work seem to cast them in a critical light (Trowler, 2011).

2) Disruption for participants

The study requires quite a significant commitment and may cause some disruption for participants. I will be well-organized but flexible about the observation and interview schedule so that the participants can pick the times which are convenient for them.


3) Video recording in observations

The video-recording process during classroom observations can be somewhat threatening for some participants. They might feel uncomfortable during the first couple days of the observations and they might feel awkward to see themselves on the screen during the stimulated recall procedure, but I hope that our close relationship and time will diminish this possible negative feelings.

I will make it clear that the purpose of the video recording is for the participants to reflect upon certain points of their own teaching, and that I do not intend to examine their performance because it is not a purpose of my study and that I have resigned from the institution.

This form-filling and revising process can be daunting, but it has helped me think more carefully about my participant’s feelings. As Richard has suggested, we all have the duty of care to everyone taking part in our studies (including ourselves) and in our writing and planning process, we can try to put ourselves in our participants’ shoes.  I hope that I will get the green light soon and hope this post will be useful for those who are going through the coming panel review.


  • Susan Dawson

    Good idea!

  • Susan, if you have time before the panel, you can quickly skim through the Ethical Approval form. I think some questions might help you strengthen the ethical aspect of your proposal. You might find some small details that you’ve never thought about them before 🙂

  • Susan Dawson

    Thank you again Khwan for a really helpful post. I still have the joy of ethics forms to come, but will certainly return to this post when the time comes.

  • I couldn’t agree more Khwan (to your first sentence) 🙂

    Now that we have gone through the process we can tell our story about it. And hope that our data generation process will be fun and fruitful..