Working with Students as Researchers: Ethical Issues of a Participatory Process

  • Stacy Olitsky University of Pennsylvania
  • John Weathers University of Pennsylvania
Keywords: student researchers, research ethics, science education


In this paper, we explore the implications of the use of academic discourse and social theory in a collaborative research process with African-American youth focused on urban science education. While involving students as co-researchers can be a more ethical approach than traditional approaches because of the greater potential for mutual understanding and for empowering participants to work together toward positive change, ethical issues may become even more salient. Specifically, the academic discourse used in the research process can be perceived by youth participants as establishing and reaffirming social boundaries rather than as a language of an open community in which they can participate. Drawing on several incidents from this research project, we argue for a continually reflexive research process in order to insure that research methods do not undermine political and ethical research goals by perpetuating exclusion similar to the kind that students may experience in science classrooms, and we suggest the use of cogenerative dialogues surrounding academic discourse in order to make explicit issues of power, knowledge, and exclusivity. We also discuss the importance of facilitating student researchers' agency to achieve their own goals within the research process and to use self-chosen forms of representation. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501383


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Stacy Olitsky, University of Pennsylvania
Stacy OLITSKY is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include interaction ritual in classrooms, in-field and out-of-field science teaching, the influence of social capital and cultural capital on science learning, activity theory and classroom change, and students' experiences with school choice.
John Weathers, University of Pennsylvania
John WEATHERS is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, studying educational policy. His research interests include the role of institutions in fostering social capital, organizational learning research and theory, teacher professional communities, and democratic forms of school governance.
FQS Debate: Qualitative Research and Ethics