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If you are interested in conducting research on teaching and learning in your classroom, you will need to consider whether you will need IRB approval. Each university has their own Institutional Review Board, which is responsible for reviewing all human research for compliance with federally mandated research guidelines. At UVA, the Institutional Review Board for the Social and Behavioral Sciences (IRB-SBS) is responsible for non-medical behavioral human research. As it relates to classroom-based research, the purpose of the IRB-SBS is to promote ethical research of students.
Everyone who submits an IRB must complete CITI training, which provides a broad overview of the importance of and fundamentals related to human subjects research. For ethical classroom-based research, students need to be aware of, and in some cases provide voluntary consent to be studied. Another important component of ethical classroom-based research is the relationship between you, the instructor, and the students. Because you are responsible for student’s grades in your class, you have what IRB calls ‘power’ or ‘authority’ over students and therefore cannot ethically ask students to volunteer to participate in a study in your class. Getting a colleague or graduate student to manage the consent process can alleviate these tensions between your role as teacher and researcher of your classroom.
If you are analyzing student data (e.g., surveys, essays, exam scores) and sharing the results publically, you need to go through the IRB process. Some public venues might include:
Presenting the results at a local, regional, national, or international conference
Publishing an article about your course where you highlight student work
If you are using the student data to improve your own teaching or share the data at a department meeting, you do not need to go through the IRB process. The IRB-SBS office ultimately decides whether your study requires student consent. Contact IRB if you have questions on whether you should submit an IRB.
There are a few steps you need to go through in order to submit an IRB. First, you should complete CITI training. CITI training lasts three years. If you have a CITI certificate at another institution, you should send a copy of your certificate to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have taken CITI training in the past and are unsure if your CITI training is still valid, log in to the CITI website to see when your training expires.
Second, you will need to start working on your IRB materials, which include:
Overview of your study, including a purpose and research questions
Details of your study design and procedures (i.e., the who, what, when, and where of recruitment, consent, and data collection)
Data collection sources (e.g., survey instruments, interview protocols)
Consent forms and/or information letters
Text for how students will be recruited to participate in the study
UVA’s IRB-SBS submission and review process moved to an online system in January 2019, so you may want to download the iProtocol template to see the specific questions you will need to answer in the iProtocol system.
Third, once you have your materials ready, log in to the iProtocol using Netbadge and complete the IRB iProtocol. Further details about the IRB process can be found on the IRB-SBS website.
The IRB-SBS office reviews research and provides recommendations on how research should proceed as well as educational and training opportunities for the research community.
As you develop your research, the IRB-SBS staff will be happy to work with you to ensure that your study is compliant with human subjects regulations and ready for the IRB-SBS Board review process. Check out the IRB-SBS website for more information or contact their office if you have questions.
The CTE also runs a program to help faculty learn how to conduct classroom-based research and provides support in navigating the IRB process. To learn more about the program, visit the SoTL Scholars website.
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