Exploring Ethical Issues When Using Visual Tools in Educational Research
In the visual as well as word-orientated world that the qualitative researcher increasingly finds herself in, a critical stance about ethics and its relation to qualitative data-gathering methods is long overdue. The growing popularity of technology and the user-friendliness of cameras and videos have led to an increase in the use of visual-oriented tools. Consequentially, critical reflection by the researcher about what is ethical, and what is right in the behaviour of researchers when collecting and using visual images in educational research, is needed. Due to qualitative research not being associated with physical manipulation or intrusive measures, an assumption could be perpetuated that its processes pose no or minimal risks to participants. However, witnessing how identifiable visuals of vulnerable populations are being shown during dissemination of findings in the public domain, has led me to question the ethics of such practices. In a world of litigation, defamation of character and misrepresentation, educational researchers have to be knowledgeable about ethical concerns that are raised about trust within the research relationship and the rights of those who are depicted in the photographs. This chapter provides an overview of the merits of visual-oriented tools in research contexts where the researcher has to cross into an unfamiliar culture, ethnicity and language. It follows with the ethics concerns that should guide the decisions of using visual data methods in research. Lastly, the author reflects on the ethical challenges that researchers face when analysing visual data.
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