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Although new-paradigm researchers often teach enlarged versions of ethics, they rarely, if ever, write about the ethics of teaching interpretivist inquiry. Five problems associated uniquely with the teaching of such inquiry are identified: (a) teacher modeling of a safe psychological classroom environment for students; (b) teaching students authentic collaboration; (c) fostering dialogues in racism, sexism, and classism; (d) high tolerance for "taboo" topics such as sex in the field; and (e) willingness to make judgments regarding the maturity of students to undertake field work, especially in sensitive sites.
There is little doubt that the human sciences are engaged in an extended and sometimes vociferous debate about research paradigms and methods. But, in the collegial dialogue, we sometimes forget about a significant but largely silent group of stakeholders. As a result, we need to enlarge the discussion so that we talk not just about research but about the link between research and what most of us do when we're not doing research: teaching. Many of the individuals who engage in emergent forms of inquiry write more about what goes on in the field, and what they have learned about applying emergent models, or paradigms, of inquiry, than about how to convey the experience, the power, or the significance of that learning to students. And many of us who teach in this area construct syllabi which routinely have embedded in them one or more classes devoted to the subject of ethics in the field. We tend to act as though ethics were either a subject to be taught or a practice of the research process. Rarely do we engage in the same reflexivity regarding ethics in our teaching as we do ethics in the field. As a consequence, we rarely ever link the two--teaching and our own fieldwork ethics--explicitly or meaningfully.
My talk today will have a three-part structure. First, I will try to lay out what I do think is teachable via direct instruction. Next, I will try to limn what I believe are particular ethical issues that interact with new-paradigm inquiry and methods but that go to the heart of teaching and how teaching and learning occur. And finally, I will try to suggest what I think are one or two workable strategies for teaching in the arena of qualitative research, especially with respect to how classrooms and students can be rearrayed to accomplish some of the deeper learnings necessary for ethical practice.
No doubt, sensitizing students to the special ethical concerns of fieldwork is critical. I argued some years ago that the federal regulations which govern the ethics of research on and with humans are wholly inadequate (Lincoln & Guba, 1989). I argued at that time that there were special problems in engaging in fieldwork for which there were no regulations and for which the fieldworkers themselves would have to rely on increased sensitivity and awareness, increased openness regarding the risks to respondents, and a fair measure of cautious judgment (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). I argued too that, like conceptions of sin, breaches of ethics might fall into two categories: sins of commission, or outright breaches of ethics and the committing of research actions strictly forbidden by law, and sins of omission, or the commission of those acts which either fail to inform or which act to preserve the political status quo.
In the first category--the abuses of commission--most sophisticated institutional review boards (IRBs) will note their possibility in proposals submitted for review and will engage the researcher in a dialogue regarding how the proposed activities might be altered to conform to federal law. But in the second category, quite frequently even the most sophisticated IRB is dominated by positivist and experimentalist scientists. Such individuals are often unfamiliar with the specific requirements of qualitative, interpretivist, or phenomenological fieldwork and so are unable to foresee particular problems prior to their arising or in time to initiate a dialogue with the researcher regarding steps which might prevent such abuses. And indeed, because these kinds of ethical issues generally take two forms, they are even more difficult to foresee.
In the first instance, that of a breach of ethics which occurs because of a failure to inform adequately, lies an ethical problem specific to phenomenological and interpretivist approaches particular to the kinds of fieldwork which occupies many social scientists at the present time. Such work is primarily in public social institutions such as schools, community organizations, health care associations, higher education institutions, or social service programs; in the corporate world; or in affiliational activities, such as recreation and health-oriented organizations or organized leisure activities (see, e.g., Rojek, 1985, 1989, 1994). In such research, we are likely to be engaging a relatively small group of individuals, one in which many members of the group know each other well or perhaps have worked with other respondents for long periods of time. In such research work, special ethical issues arise, issues which pose risks unforeseen by the legislators, policy personnel, and scientists who collaborated to create the human subjects protection protocols. Specifically, those risks include the …