The responsibility of knowledge: Identifying and reporting students with evidence of psychological distress in large-scale school-based studies
AuthorKern, ML; Cahill, H; Morrish, L; Farrelly, A; Shlezinger, K; Jach, H
Source TitleResearch Ethics
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsKern, M. L., Cahill, H., Morrish, L., Farrelly, A., Shlezinger, K. & Jach, H. (2021). The responsibility of knowledge: Identifying and reporting students with evidence of psychological distress in large-scale school-based studies. Research Ethics, 17 (2), pp.193-216. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016120952511.
Access StatusOpen Access
The use of psychometric tools to investigate the impact of school-based wellbeing programs raises a number of ethical issues around students’ rights, confidentiality and protection. Researchers have explicit ethical obligations to protect participants from potential psychological harms, but guidance is needed for effectively navigating disclosure of identifiable confidential information that indicates signs of psychological distress. Drawing on a large-scale study examining student, school, and system-based factors that impact the implementation of a school-based social and emotional learning program, we describe patterns of distress attained from quantitative and qualitative questions and describe the process that we evolved to monitor and disclose sensitive mental health information, providing one example of how researchers might effectively address the responsibilities that emerge when collecting sensitive information from students within an education system. The patterns and processes that emerged illustrate that the inclusion of mental distress information can elicit important insights, but also brings responsibilities for minimising risks and maximising benefits.
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