Ethics and IRB for SoTL

How can I remain ethical in my study design? Do I need IRB approval?

by Colleen M. Kuusinen, Assistant Director of SoTL


Great questions! First a few definitions:

IRB = Institutional Review Board. This is the research oversight committee charged with ensuring that human subjects research is conducted ethically. Each research institution typically has one, and the one at UGA is lovely. At UGA, they are a part of the Human Subjects Office, which is part of the Office of Research. They hold IRB meetings monthly and welcome emails to 

Human Subjects = Doing SoTL research is, by definition, "human subjects research" in social sciences terminology. Thus we are bound by ethical standards and required to take Human Subjects Training. Some useful resources below:

MacLean, Mark and Poole, Gary (2010). An Introduction to Ethical Considerations for Novices to Research in Teaching and Learning in Canada. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 1(2), 1-10. DOI:  

Healey, R. L., Bass, T., Caulfield, J., Hoffman, A., McGinn, M. K., Miller-Young, J., & Haigh, M. (2013). Being Ethically Minded: Practising the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in an Ethical Manner. Teaching & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(2), 23–32.

With a better understanding of the who, what, when and where, you can begin to think about the "how," that is what are the right methods of data collection for your SoTL study. 

View this January 2017 presentation on IRB submissions, or download this shortened version of the presentation: