Providing Informed Consent and Seeking Institutional Permissions
As a general ethical principle, participation in research is a voluntary activity, which requires that the researcher shows respect for the individual’s capacity to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. When you ask adults to participants in research you directly ask them to volunteer, and you are almost always required to arrange for them to give you their written informed consent before they begin their participation.
Many SOE graduate students conduct research that involves preschool, primary, or secondary students as participants in educational research. In these instances, students give their assent to participate in a manner that is appropriate to their age and capacity. But also, it is critical that you obtain the written informed consent of the student’s parent or guardian. One complication is that some (or all) of the data you are collecting may be no different than what you would be collecting in your normal role as an educator. When your collection of the data falls squarely in your normal role as educator it is important to make a distinction between how the data is used. Should you fail in obtaining written parental informed consent, it is your use of the data for your research purposes—rather than your collecting of it for educational purposes—that would be prohibited.
There are precise specifications for what you must include in a consent letter to meet criteria for fully informed consent in research participation. These specifications apply both to adult participant consent and to parental/guardian consent on behalf of their children.
Examples of written informed consent documents (student investigators, exempt research):
Institutional approval is about getting permission from the research site to conduct your study. Most often research is conducted inside an organization, and organizations generally have regulations and procedures for approving research that involves their members or facilities. You are responsible for determining from whom you need to get permission.
In a school setting, you would generally need to get permission from the principal. MPS also requires distinct level approval. In a business setting your generally need to seek permission through a manager to whom you report directly. You may also need permission from higher levels of management.
Examples of institutional permission letters:
INFORMED CONSENT: A person's voluntary agreement, based upon adequate knowledge and understanding of relevant information, to participate in research or to undergo a diagnostic, therapeutic, or preventive procedure. In giving informed consent, subjects may not waive or appear to waive any of their legal rights, or release or appear to release the investigator, the sponsor, the institution or agents thereof from liability for negligence [Federal Policy 116; 21 CFR 50.20 and 50.25].
VOLUNTARY: Free of coercion, duress, or undue inducement. Used in the research context to refer to a subject's decision to participate (or to continue to participate) in a research activity.
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