Students as research subjects: Ethical and educational issues

James R. Dalziel

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    20 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper evaluates the ethical and educational questions provoked by student participation in psychological research as a course requirement. Both conceptual arguments and empirical evidence are presented in favour of the practice's educational value, and the author argues that a preoccupation with "coercion" is misguided, given the comparability of participation with other equally coercive course expectations such as attendance, essays, and exams. The argument regarding "experimenter gain" is also placed in an educational context, and the mutually beneficial nature of interaction between students and academics is emphasised. The current Australian Psychological Society's (1994) guidelines for the ethical conduct of research are also discussed from an educational perspective: the lack of clarity surrounding the ethics of student participation in experiments is identified, and the need for clarification is suggested. Methods for improving the educational value of participation are discussed, and integration with coursework, debriefing, and feedback are suggested as pedagogical tools. Final comments touch on the wider context of student participation in research beyond "subject pools", historical changes in participation practices, and the need for accurate and uncomplicated language in communication with student subjects.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-123
    Number of pages5
    JournalAustralian Psychologist
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 1996


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