Ethics in Research on Learning: Dialectics of Praxis and Praxeology

  • SungWon Hwang University of Victoria
  • Wolff-Michael Roth University of Victoria
Keywords: ethics, research on learning, dialectics, praxis, praxeology, communication, human body, reflexivity


Qualitative social research designed to develop ways of understanding and explaining lived experience of human beings is a reflexive human endeavor. It is reflexive in that as researchers attempt to better understand their participants, they also come to better understand themselves. Consequently, research ethics itself becomes an ethical project, for it pertains to participant and researcher at the same time: Both are subjects, knower and known. Particularly in case of research on learning, reflexivity arises from the fact that the research itself constitutes learning about learning. How is ethics in research on learning reflexive of, in its praxis and praxeology, ongoing events and changes of the human learning? In this study, from our experience of conducting a project designed to inquire into "learning in unfamiliar environments," we develop pertinent ethical issues through a dialectical process—not unlike that used by G.W.F. HEGEL in Phenomenology of Spirit—grounded in our lived experience and developed in three theoretical claims concerning a praxeology of ethics. First, ethics is an ongoing historical event; second, ethics is based on the communicative praxis of material bodies; and third, ethics involves the creation of new communicative configurations. We conclude that ethics is grounded in a fundamental answerability of human beings for their actions, which requires communicative action that itself is a dialectical process in opening up possibilities for acting in an answerable manner. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501198


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

SungWon Hwang, University of Victoria
SungWon HWANG wrote her doctoral thesis on learning science through laboratory activities at Seoul National University in Korea and currently is a postdoctoral fellow at University of Victoria. Her research themes range over phenomenological and dialectical perspectives on human practice, learning, and identity in science activities, recently in the context of multicultural and multilingual environments.
Wolff-Michael Roth, University of Victoria
Wolff-Michael ROTH ( is Lansdowne Professor of applied cognitive science at the University of Victoria. His interdisciplinary research agenda includes studies in science and mathematics education, general education, applied cognitive science, sociology of science, and linguistics (pragmatics). His recent publications include Toward an Anthropology of Graphing (Kluwer, 2003), Rethinking Scientific Literacy (with Angela BARTON CALABRESE, Routledge, 2004), and Establishing Scientific Classroom Discourse Communities (co-edited with Randy YERRICK, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).
FQS Debate: Qualitative Research and Ethics