ABSTRACT

Notions of ‘participatory’ and ‘emancipatory’ research have, in recent years, sought to foreground the voice of marginalised communities that so often attract research attention. While it is unsurprising that many people seek to understand the experiences of those learners at the margins, researchers new to the field might find themselves in unchartered and challenging territory. Our starting point in this chapter is to acknowledge that the ethical dilemmas inherent to researching marginalised learners are complex and demand thinking that goes beyond research guidelines, such as those advocated by the British Educational Research Association (BERA 2004), which tend to deal only with issues relating to micro-ethics such as research approval, access and confidentiality. However, we would also argue that the kind of moral and ethical dilemmas that we will discuss in this chapter are as relevant to teaching as a profession as they are to those seeking to conduct inclusive and ethical classroom research. For example, almost 20 years ago, Sockett (1993) defined five major virtues central to the moral character of teaching professionalism: honesty, courage, care, fairness and practical wisdom, arguing more recently (Sockett 2006) that education is about the development of intellectual virtues and that teacher professionalism must be about more than functional skills and knowledge. If we relate this to classroom research, while it is tempting to devise rubrics to encourage ethical practice, such guidelines alone do little to enhance, or even define, courage or practical wisdom. What is of interest in this chapter is the extent to which teacher researchers are able to maintain a set of beliefs about the purpose of educational research within a climate of prescribed research ‘standards’ and whether a kind of ‘values schizophrenia’ (Ball 2003: 221) is experienced by individual practitioners in the process. To return to the notion of ‘teacher virtues’, Sockett (2006) asserts that teacher professionalism requires the development of a number of dispositions: dispositions of character (self-knowledge, integrity – wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, persistence and trustworthiness), dispositions of intellect (fairness

and impartiality, open-mindedness, truthfulness and accuracy) and dispositions of care (receptivity, relatedness and responsiveness). Likewise, Hansen (2000, 2001) in exploring teaching as a moral activity, emphasised ‘the moral heart of teaching’, and premised teaching as a time-honoured human endeavour to bring about human flourishing, contending that:

The moral quality of knowledge lies not in its possession, but in how it can foster a widening consciousness and mindfulness. This moral cast of mind, embodies commitments to straightforwardness, simplicity, naiveté, open-mindedness, integrity of purpose, responsibility, and seriousness.