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Week 3: Ethics in Teaching Composition

The article for English students was the CCCC (four C’s) “Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Research in Composition Studies.” Last semester was the first time I had ever heard of the IRB, which is largely due to the fact that as an English major undergraduate, my papers were on literary topics and never studies that involved speaking to a person of any sort. Even now, the majority of my papers are still on literary topics; however,  these ethical guidelines would be useful if I decided to do a study on, say, my pedagogical approach in my classroom this semester.

I found the timing of this reading uncanny because I just began my section on the Fieldwork Paper with my freshman writing students this week. Tomorrow, I will be going over interviews, surveys, and questionnaires. Because of this, I planned to talk about the IRB with the students, and its role in the process of publishing or sharing any study that uses human subjects as evidence, even in composition. I hadn’t thought to bring up the CCCC Guidelines for Ethics, but now I think I will show them this particular section from the Guidelines:

  • “Some studies may include populations who may be considered vulnerable and protected, including but not limited to children and adolescent minors, students, prisoners, pregnant women, military veterans, disenfranchised groups, persons with disabilities, and adults with legal guardians. In these cases, as researchers, we consult carefully with the IRB/reviewing agencies, colleagues, and (when allowed) with prospective participants to develop a protocol that protects their rights, privacy, well-being, and especially, dignity.” (CCCC)

The concern of preserving the “rights, privacy, well-being, and…dignity” of the people who voluntarily involve themselves in a project is the main ethical concern, in my opinion (CCCC). Granted, reporting accurate facts and citing them properly is important, too, but our concern as members of the Humanities should also be to preserve the rights and dignity of human beings. I think this was an important inclusion in the code of ethics and is definitely something that I will bring up in class tomorrow because none of these students are English majors whose papers deal solely with literature and could very well have to go through the IRB before their time here at Virginia Tech is over.

Work Cited:

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “CCCC Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Research in Composition Studies.” National Council of Teachers of English, November 2003, link,  accessed 31 January 2017.

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