Today, we had the chance to read the article by Guillemin and Gillam on ethics, reflexivity and important ethical moments in research. The following two questions were posed and then answered: What is procedural ethics? What are ethics of practice?
Procedural ethics involves seeking approval from a committee or ethics board so as to conduct research involving human beings while ethics of practice involves the everyday ethical issues that arise when conducting research, issues not necessarily dealt with specifically in the codes of ethics or codes of conduct agreements.
Some important ‘take-aways’ for me were the following:
If the research is in your own classroom, you don’t need ethical approval. At a school level, you do need approval from the principal, a board of directors, a university body, etc. As well, in terms of my thesis, I found that the term ethics of care was used to describe what happens during every interaction between a patient and their doctor, but which I translated to relate that concept to the relationship shared between the students and teacher. The following two questions came to mind: what everyday ethical issues arise during/in lived experience and during the practice of teaching and learning within the classroom? What trusts have to be in place between teacher and student for an ethic of care to be maintained?
There was also a section in this article on reflexivity and research. Reflexivity being a process of critical reflection both on the kind of knowledge produced from research as well as regarding how that knowledge is generated. Reflexivity involves critical reflection of how the researcher constructs the knowledge as well as how the knowledge is revealed in the planning, conduct and writing up of the research. A critical researcher is able to step back and take a critical look at her role in the research process, so as to improve the quality and validity of the study while recognizing the limitations of such research. A researcher must be alert to ethical issues in research.
Also today, we did a short exercise with a partner in observational research in which we had to observe and then collect field notes which we wrote up directly afterwards. I am including my summary of those notes here as well so as to document my first ever attempt at collecting observational field notes on a fifteen minute observation.
He saunters by with his green flower pot swinging, heavy and full. His keys jangle at his side, a full key ring of silver metal clicking and tinkling like little bells. I watch him walk over to the bed of geraniums and petunias, wind-blown and fading in the summer heat. He over-turns the pot of water so that an arch of water sprays generously on top of parched greenery. Then he turns and heads back from whence he came.
It is a windy day to say the very least. Between a blue clapboard shop and a muted pink one, the corridor acts as a wind tunnel complete with sound effects. A garbage bag ripping about at the far end adds to the dramatic effect, sounding like a miniature replica of a jet engine. Sounds abound everywhere I turn.
A man and his young apprentice work at installing a new walkway to replace the old. As the rotting structure is thrown out, it lands with a loud thud, startling me. Not long afterwards one can hear the intermittent blare of a drill as the new triangular wooden ramp is set into place. There is no hurry or rush to the labour. Everything appears to be very relaxed and easy here. The young helper sits on the porch as he waits for instruction about what next he must do. It appears as if this is a dream summer job- outdoors in the warm, fresh air. What I wouldn’t give right now for that luxury!
The wind over-powers many of the more subtle sounds to be heard, but if one leans in close, they might hear the soft rustle of two pinwheel wind-catchers, brightly coloured and spinning in the breeze. The easy banter of tourists as they amble the boardwalk, walking in and out of shops as if they have not a care in the world- this is the sound of summer. Wind-chimes tinkle musically while nearby flags flap frantically as if signalling an S.O.S. Over head, a plane flies by- while in the water, a Coast Guard employee sprays off his boat with a hose in preparations for some kind of journey or another. Waves lap the shore, slapping the side of the boat while a lone walker passes by.
Feet also are heard slapping the walkway. Sandals which make a ‘suck, suck’ noise are sported on another person’s feet. Feet are such curious things. Feet in shoes, in sandals, in boots, in sneakers. What choices are behind the decision to choose which footwear?
A door closes with a slam even while the open warmth of friends conversing on the deck house patio adds background noise to the sights and sounds. I am drawn to a little squeaking noise in a narrow corridor between two other buildings, a sound resembling the squeak of a bird. Might I find a nest- should I be so fortunate? I follow my ears but am disappointed to find that it is only a door fastened shut with a lock and hook. As the wind thrusts and pulls it in repetitive motion, the lock rubs against its metal casing. Sounding for all the world like the squeak of a baby bird.
Smells are ready at hand as well. The closer one moves to the far corner, the better to catch the fragrant whiff of frying food. And the air smells like summer- of salt water and humidity.
So much to see, from the grey clapboard structure that is the complex to the individual buildings, the shops and restaurants. To the displays, the signage, the products for sale. Monkey and flower bobble heads are carefully displayed at five dollars per item. The colourful paint on each building draws the eye and catches the attention of shoppers ambling by while the dirty water that flows below the large deck is a detractor if one should decide to take note. A lone pencil and white straw float listlessly along the rocks where water slaps the shore. A single oyster shell sits on the rocks looking rather lonely and forgotten.
Yet in spite of the odd piece of garbage, the walkways and main gathering area are clean and inviting. It feels relaxed here. It is an easy place to be. And the wind seems to carry that sentiment as it moves me along from place to place, almost overpowering at times.
I accidentally knock an earring off from my ear and it falls to the board below, only to tumble out of my grasp and then through a crack in between two boards. I stick the second one in my pant pocket as I walk toward a group of people chatting on the benches at the center of the theatre. They are asking questions of my partner, initiated by a T-shirt she is wearing. I wait for the conversation to end before I head back to the class, bidding a farewell to the couple who has struck up the conversation.
Something I would like to note about the two opportunities I had today to conduct observational research. Although we were advised to NOT write down notes while we were observing, I did find it helpful during the above observation to have my phone out so as to do two things: take notes via texting and also so as to appear unobtrusive. I find if you have a phone out, no one looks at you twice. No one would have ever known I was there collecting data. However, in the afternoon when I went to the library to observe, I did not use my phone. I tried to appear as though I were a patron. However, without an aid (i.e. my phone), I feel I attracted more attention at the library than I did at Spinnaker’s Landing. It was almost as if I stood out. I almost felt like I was “stalking” the people I was observing, whereas with the phone, no one suspected anything. So, while in the past a paper and pen or a computer might have signaled that you were a researcher, one’s phone just seems to make you blend in more in today’s context.