Ethical Issues for the Pedagogy of Civic Engagement
Voluntary Participation (of community participants)
- Who has requested/sanctioned projects?
- Who has been consulted?
- Who has not been consulted?
- Who has been coerced?
- Who can withdraw?
- Responsibilities with vulnerable populations/those diminished autonomy/capacity?
- What information do the community participants and students have?
- What is the faculty responsibility to ensure that all participants know the time-line, purpose, procedures of the project?
No Harm to Participants
- What constitutes harm in service-learning and civic engagement projects?
- Are participants or students likely to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmed?
- How could harm come to faculty or to the educational institution?
- What is the capacity of students (in terms of maturity, skill, and knowledge) to perform activities expected by instructor and community partner?
- Do students have enough time to engage in the civic engagement/service learning project?
- Who will provide orientation, monitoring, and supervision? (faculty, community organization staff, consultants?)
Potential for Exploitation
- Are we exploiting the community for learning purposes or for research purposes?
- What is reciprocity between campus and community partners?
- What is a fair exchange?
- What issues about power and powerlessness are raised?
- Do we monitor to ensure that our students are not exploited by the community partner?
- What happens if students are privy to confidences about suicide, violence, or criminal actions?
- What if students uncover malfeasance, illegal actions, or discriminatory practices?
- Should students end relationships with agencies and clients when the semester is over?
- What activities are not acceptable?
- What are the implications of the academic calendar for bringing closure to projects and continuing relationships?
- What is our responsibility to ensure that needed services are continued?
Confidentiality and Privacy
- What responsibilities do we have to ensure confidentiality and privacy?
- Do community participants know that they are subjects of journals, papers, class presentations, and discussions?
- Should real names or pseudonyms be used?
- What about identifying data?
- What is the potential for harm upon upon disclosure?
Dignity and Respect
- Are faculty responsible for teaching communication skills or empathy along with our discipline studies?
- Should we assume that community partner agencies will teach special skills?
- Do we assume that students will be prompt, reliable, and respectful or do we emphasize those qualities as we introduce the project?
- You and the students should consult the Human Subjects Research/Institutional Research Board guidelines for general information and suggestions about service-learning projects and to see if an application to the IRB is necessary before the project begins
(Modified from presentation by Barbara Rich, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Southern Maine)