Increasingly, research in schools is carried out with students, teachers, and school leaders, i.e. participatory approaches. Central of this kind of research is, for example, listening to student experience and students’ active participation in the research process. This issue of student voice and participation in research has ethical dimensions affecting the overall well-being of students. Ethical research together with students should protect participants from harm, offer opportunities for them to have a say in matters affecting them, show respect for their views, trust their competency as well as facilitate all participants’ willingness to share their views and to participate actively.
Thus, participatory research is carried out in close cooperation with the students and their teachers, building relationships between participants and researchers. The nature of such research makes new demands for how research is conducted, emphasizing the researcher’s ethical leadership. In this paper, we will explore and discuss different ways of acting as a researcher, exemplified by cases from our research with students. The discussion focuses on these questions: How can researchers handle different relationships with students, teachers, and researchers? How can researchers negotiate different power relations? How can researchers attend to formal ethical guidelines of confidentiality and informed consent and still create relationships important for the successful outcome of this kind of research?
We argue, that a researcher’s ethical leadership can be developed through careful consideration on the researcher’s role and ethical values connected to the research process. Such leadership may be oriented towards students’ experiences and views, their self-understanding and individual agency, accompanied by the researchers’ self-understanding and awareness.
20th Annual Values and Leadership conference, State College, USA, October 15-17.