Staying in the know about education research

PRIM&R is pleased to bring you blog posts from the PRIM&R Blog Squad about the 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad wrote every day from the conference, and will continue to blog about how AER is affecting their lives.

While attending the 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference last week, I went to various sessions on education research. I was hoping to be able to better understand education research and have the opportunity to share some information with my colleagues when I returned home.
I am happy to report that I was able to bring not some, but a whole lot of information back to Minnesota! Not only did I get new ideas out of these sessions, but also validation that our institutional review board (IRB) is not alone in some of the common issues it faces in education research. Here are some session highlights; I challenge you to think about them as well:
Issues with research data
  • Is the data collected valid?
  • If data is invalid, how will research findings impose risk on educational outcomes?
  • Can the data really be deidentified?
  • Should we implement a data safety management board in education research studies that are studying student behavior through records?

Questions on policies and regulations

  • How does the Protection of Pupil Rights Act (PPRA) overrule the Common Rule (45 CFR 46) in education research? What does this mean for IRBs and researchers?
  • If a school district does not have a policy about parent notifications or permissions for research, what should you do?
  • How do IRBs and researchers balance and stay in the know about the differences in local, state, and federal guidelines?
  • How will potential changes to FERPA affect IRBs and researchers?
  • What Department of Education-funded education research cannot be exempt under the Common Rule, even though the Common Rule says it can be?

Issues with permissions to conduct research

  • Who decides what research is allowed within the school?
  • Who is right when it comes to parental permission requirements?

Uncertainty surrounding consent and assent to participate

  • Who should assent potential human subjects?
  • Should we allow passive consent? (Yes, this is taboo for IRBs, but it’s language is used in education research.)
  • Who can assent or consent to research?
  • What does it really mean when we say subjects can opt-out?

There are even more areas for discussion, and I strongly encourage my fellow conference attendees, researchers, and human protections staff to take a look at the resources and handouts that are available in the AER Online Conference Portal. Here are a few of the many research studies, journal articles, and tools that I found especially helpful; if you have additional resources that you love, please share them here! Session resources to look at in the AER Online Conference Portal: A15: The Assent Process and Assessing Children’s Competence to Understand a Proposed Research ProjectD21: Challenges of Research with Adolescent PopulationsD26: School-Based Research and the Common Rule: The How-TosE25: Beyond the Basics in Education Research: Difficult Issues from Pre-School to Grad School