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Walking out of the Dilemma of Ethical Field: Case Study on Teachers' Voices on Curriculum Change in a Chinese High School

Sat, April 9, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Convention Center, Level One, Room 154 A


In China, on one side, there is no any Institutional Review Board to review the potential ethical challenges in neither educational research field, nor recognitions on respect on informants’ right of know and implementation the principle of confidentiality. On the other side, with the advent of qualitative research values such as “collaboration”, “reflexivity” and “transformation” have penetrated into the contemporary educational study in China. For instance, the critical ethnography, combining the epistemology of critical theory and constructionist epistemology, holds that the researchers should not confine themselves to the objective observation and recording the life of the participants; they should also make reflection on the role he plays in the course of constructing knowledge and fully “empower” the participants.

In this paper, the researcher tracks the author’s ethnographic study on curriculum change in a high school and navigating the ethics, in which the researcher was introduced by local school district as “principal assistant” in curriculum reform while his true identity was as a researcher (Malone, 2003). By reviewing the experience in an ethnographic study, which emphasized rapport with, administers and teachers, the paper reveals the multi-layered, complicated and sensitive relationship in the research and the ethical dilemma between “virtual” and “real”. The study discusses two questions: firstly, how were social relations established in the specific social context; secondly, what kind of ethical issues did the researcher encounter while conducting research within school system and what was the best solution? Most notable was the contradiction between what might be advocated within China versus by “outsiders” aligned with qualitative imperatives, which might be perceived as alienating and foreign versus culturally aligned. Chinese schools is a closed a system which prevents outsiders to examine the specific change process. Few of administrators and teachers would likely share their perspectives with the researchers, which become the obstacles of educational study (Maxwell, 1994). The relational connection between change agent and educator in China appears to involve “emotional bonds of a face-to-face-society” which is more incline to sideline outsiders aligned with what might be deemed “foreign” ethical praxis.

Coffey, A. J. (1999) The ethnographic Self, C.A:Sage.
Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography: Principles in practice. London: Rouledge.
Malone , S. (2003) Ethics at home :Informed consent in your own backyard, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 797-815 .
Maxwell, J. (1994) Handouts for the course “Qualitative research in education”, Cambridge: Harvard Graduate School of Education.


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