Research Ethics: TCPS2

There are always ethical considerations inherent when working with human “subjects”, which are the foundation of any SoTL project. After all, SoTL is grounded in improving student learning, and we cannot do that if we aren’t working with, or at least observing, students. As part of this investigation, you will be collecting data from human subjects, which may include identifying information. As such, you will require approval from the Durham College Research Ethics Board (REB), which starts with understanding the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2).

Faculty researchers are required to complete CORE (Course on Research Ethics), which is a free, self-paced, online tutorial which was designed for researchers to assist with the interpretation and application of the TCPS2 (2018). The tutorial is interactive and consists of nine (9) modules; however, those modules do not have to be completed in one sitting as progress points are automatically saved which allows users to resume their session at another time. On average completion takes four (4) hours. The tutorial includes end of module quizzes, as well as a final assessment, the Knowledge Consolidation Exercise, which requires a minimum score of 80% for successful completion. CORE is mastery-based, providing a certificate of completion that can be saved and printed, which must be submitted to the REB prior to the start of your project. You can find out additional information on the Panel on Research Ethics website.

Some ethical considerations to consider include:

  • How will you protect sensitive information, including study participant confidentiality and intellectual property?
  • How will you ensure that you have consent that is informed and voluntary?
  • How will you mitigate concerns around delineating your roles as an instructor and a researcher within the same class? Are there foreseeable concerns related to power differentials? Are there risks associated with vulnerability?

While thinking about ethics may seem like a daunting and cumbersome task, you are simply considering the impacts - negative, positive, or otherwise – that your research may have the individuals directly involved. You may find it helpful to review or work through Dalhousie University’s REB User Guide on SoTL to identify any key ethical questions and/or considerations inherent in your research proposal.


Elgie, S. (2014). Researching Teaching and Student Outcomes in Postsecondary Education: An Introduction. Second edition. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Schnurr, M. A., & Taylor, A. (2019). Bridging the Gap between the Research Ethics Board and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(1).

Some content on this page adopted from Open Educational Resources (OER) under a Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike 4.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) from Queen’s University (n.d.). Educational Research: A practial guide. Retrieved from Educational Research: A Practical Guide | OER Commons.