My April 2019 contribution to FAX, MHC’s Faculty Association monthly magazine.

T. S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month; the lilacs emerge from the dead land and their scent stirs memory and desire.  In a less poetic way, April is that time of year when many of us get a chance to look up and look around.  For many (not Trades instructors or those who teach the Spring semester), the grind of teaching and marking lets up, and for a very short while, we have a chance to focus on other possibilities, like our reading lists and long-awaited writing projects. 

And, perhaps as you reflect upon on your past year of teaching and learning, you have the inkling of an idea for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Project but don’t know when or how to get started, especially because the application for research ethics feels time-consuming and daunting. One of things I have to complete in April as part of my dissertation is my research ethics application for Athabasca University, and as I approach this, I thought I would share some resources that have been helpful to me.

Athabasca University requires all of their graduate students to complete the Tri-Council Policy Statement 2nd Edition (TCPS 2) Core training.  The online course on research ethics is an introduction to the 2nd edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2). It consists of eight modules focusing on ethical guidance in TCPS 2 that is applicable to all research regardless of discipline or methodology.  The purpose of TCPS 2: CORE is to provide an introduction to TCPS 2, primarily for researchers.  It is actually quite interesting and only takes a couple hours to complete.

MHC’s application for research involving human subjects corresponds to the TCPS 2 expectations, and while our application may be slightly different from other institutions, many institutions provide examples of successful applications and walkthroughs for how to complete a successful research ethics application.  Some of my favorites include:

Fedoruk, L. (2017). Ethics in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Key principles and strategies for ethical practice. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. Retrieved from (great guide of how the TCPS 2 is applied to research conducting in a teaching and learning setting)

uWaterloo’s Guide to completing a human research ethics application (step-by-step instructions for how to complete certain sections of the application, including data ownership, storage, and destruction)

University of British Columbia’s Behavioural Research Ethics Board hosts a number of previously approved applications to give a sense of the information members of the research ethics board will be looking for.

One of my favourite comments from the UBC site is, “bear in mind that regardless of the quality of your application, the REB is likely to have some comments and requests for clarification.” That is the REB’s role after all.  I have seen it said that the Research Ethics Board should be a partner in research.  That spirit of partnership doesn’t always play out at other institutions, but it does here.  Members of MHC’s Research Ethics Board encourage a revise and resubmit approach, and I am willing to provide as much assistance as I can.

So don’t let the prospect of research ethics stop you. It is a productive and necessary step to conducting quality research, and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning can be high-quality research.  Some people still don’t know what SoTL means; others think of it as scholarship-lite.  But SoTL is now recognized within the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework for Alberta’s Adult Learning System.  SoTL is research to better understand the teaching and learning process and generate new knowledge around curriculum, teaching practices, and how students acquire knowledge.  It is a valid component of strengthening understanding of teaching and learning and improving practice.

I am also very interested in in Joshua Eyler’s umbrella ethics approach.

Ecampus Research Unit. (2018, October 29). Dr. Joshua Eyler on umbrella IRBs. Oregon State University [institutional blog]. Retrieved from