The JCU IRB has developed the following guidelines for faculty members/instructors who wish to use their own students in a research project regardless of the level of risk or type of research project.  See also, “Does Your Project Need IRB Review?”

Researchers are asked to recognize that coercion to participate in a study, however benign, adds an increased level of risk to the participants. To mitigate this risk, the IRB suggests that the following procedure be followed:

  • For those studies where the class material will be used in the study, students should be notified early in the semester that they will be asked to consent to the use of their data in a research study (this step is especially important when the data includes reflection pieces or personal essays). Consent materials should be distributed and collected by someone other than the instructor (an independent third party such as a colleague, graduate assistant, department secretary), and usually at the end of the semester.  Consent forms will be withheld from the instructor until grades have been posted at the end of the semester.
  • For one-time surveys distributed during class, written consent should be waived so that there is no record of who participated and who did not. The survey could be distributed during class and returned to the department secretary at a later time. Surveys completed during class should be distributed and collected by a disinterested third party. Online surveys may eliminate some coercion. Identifiers (handwriting, demographic data) may breach privacy and the surveys should be withheld from the researcher until after grades are posted.
  • Peer coercion may be an additional factor for in-class completion of surveys, especially lengthy surveys.

Faculty members/instructors who wish to use their students in a research study are strongly encouraged to discuss their project with the IRB Administrator prior to designing the protocol to delay approval of the project.  The IRB Adminstrator may be able to suggest other ways to mitigate coercion and/or increase privacy protection.

For more information on this topic, see also:

  • Swenson, E. V., & McCarthy, M. A. (2012). “Ethically conducting the scholarship of teaching and learning research.” In R. E. Landrum, M. A. McCarthy, R. E. Landrum & M. A. McCarthy (Eds.), Teaching ethically:
    Challenges and opportunities. (pp. 21-29). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
  • Faculty Conducting Research With Their Own Students (Metropolitan State University, Denver)
  • Using University Students in Research (Boise State University)