Informed Consent: Protecting Students’ Rights

Students participating in SOTL research have the right to avoid harm, to have their confidentiality maintained, and to opt out of the research project if they choose.

This is particularly important in light of the fact that in SOTL research, there is a risk that students might feel coerced to participate because of the power you hold as their instructor (e.g. one who has control over their grades, recommendations, etc.).

One way we seek to protect students' rights is by asking for their consent to participate in or have their coursework used in SOTL research.

In accessible language, all participants must be made clearly aware, among other things:

  • of the purpose of the research;
  • the expected duration of the participants' participation;
  • the procedures to be followed;
  • any foreseeable risks or discomforts;
  • how confidentiality will be maintained; and
  • the fact that the participant may withdraw consent at any time.

The form can also include possible benefits (why the research is important, how future students may benefit, etc.).

Note that while informed consent can never be waived, written informed consent can be waived in some instances.

For example, in a computer-based survey, the first screen can contain language that states that continuation with the survey implies consent. Informed consent is valid for one year only (the dates of validity are usually included as a footer to the informed consent form).

A full listing of the concerns covered by Stonehill's policy of informed consent may be found in Section VII of the IRB policy. In addition, the College has developed a convenient Informed Consent Form Template, which can be found on Stonehill's IRB website and can be adapted to fit the needs of your project.

NB: If your research requires you to access information that is typically protected by FERPA (such as a student's academic or disciplinary records), then you are advised to consult with the IRB Chair about how to proceed.