P. Jagadeeswari1 and K.Poornima2

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1 PhD Research Scholar, Hindustan
Arts and Science College, Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore

2 PhD Research Scholar, Hindustan
Arts and Science College, Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore



ethics involve requirements on daily work, the protection of dignity of
subjects and the publication of the information in the research. However, when
teacher participate in research they have to cope with three value systems;
society; teaching and science which may be in conflict with the values of
subjects, communities, and societies and create tensions and dilemmas in
teaching. After a short description of the nature of teaching, and the advocacy
role of teachers, the writer will attempt to highlight the possible conflicts
that teachers have to deal with, when undertaking or participating in research.
The major ethical issues in conducting research are: a) Informed consent, b)
Beneficence- Do not harm c) Respect for anonymity and confidentiality d)
Respect for privacy. However, both the nature of teaching which focuses on
caring, preventing harm and protecting dignity and the advocates role of
teachers which calls for defending the rights of subjects, are sometimes
incongruent with the ethics in research. Ethical issues, conflicting values,
and ambiguity in decision making, are recurrently emerging from literature
review on teaching research. Because of lack of clarity in ethical standards,
teachers must develop an awareness of these issues and an effective framework
to deal with problems involving human rights.

Research ethics, dilemmas in research, nature of teaching, teaching research, teaching


in humanities also encounter the challenges of representing with scrupulous
accuracy the scholarship of their colleagues, whether that scholarship is
consistent or inconsistent with their own work. All parties must avoid
unacknowledged adoption of the words and ideas of others, however slight or
unintended, and refrain from exploiting the work of collaborators, especially
students. As Ortega (2005) has argued, there are also powerful ethical
consequences in the choice of what population ones studies as representative of
L2 learners, and in how accessible research findings are made to teachers and
policy makers. These are genuine and serious ethical responsibilities, if only
rarely the stuff of high drama. They are also not unique to scholars of teaching
professional. Rather, garden-variety ethical decision-making enters into
scholarship on English in ways that largely conform to how it infuses
scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

even insofar as second language research appears to be at low risk for ethical
catastrophe, and even insofar as those ethical issues that do emerge are mostly
ones familiar to other disciplines, it is still worth surveying the
moral-philosophical landscape of the field. This review article first
summarizes existing discussion of ethics in second language teaching, and
surveys ethical guidelines and codes relevant to second language teaching
research. It then introduces new materials available to scholars who would like
to develop their sensitivity to ethical issues. I employ these new materials to
speculate about how a sharpened ethical consciousness might raise new questions
about familiar research and find value in research that has generally gone

Research ethics in second language Teaching

much has been published specifically on ethical issues in second language
research. Some neighboring fields, however, have amassed extensive literatures
on ethics. These fields include language testing; language pedagogy, especially
teaching English as a second language; critical linguistics; and the super
ordinate discipline of applied linguistics. The concern with ethics exhibited
by scholars in these areas has taken varied forms and addressed various issues.
Following a symposium on ethics at the 1996 meeting of the Association
Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée, Alan Davies guest edited an issue of
the journal Language Testing. The issue is comprised of ten papers that explore
the ethical dimensions of language teaching, including teaching atmoshphere,
content, validity, test ‘backwash’, and the social and political roles that
language tests play (Davies, 1997). Like language testers, language teachers
(especially teachers of English as a second language) have a fairly developed
tradition of reflection on  professional
ethics. For example, Silva (1997) discussed what counts as adequate academic
support for english learners, and Dufon (1993) called on the field to expand
the scope of what it recognizes as its ethical responsibilities. The papers
collected by Hafernik, Messerchmitt, and Vandrick (2002) explore a wide range
of situations where ESL teachers face ethical choices. The book addresses
nitty-gritty matters such as classroom management dilemmas, student gift
giving, and responding to plagiarism. It also discusses matters where an
individual teacher’s actions may have less immediate but potentially more
pervasive consequences, such as in the construction of equitable relations with
colleagues and with educational institutions, and in the responsibility a
teacher assumes (or not) for the effects of the spread of English world-wide.

stream of work that is characteristically highly self-conscious about ethical
matters is ‘critical linguistics’, sometimes called ‘critical applied
linguistics’ (Rajagopalan, 2004; Davies and Elder 2004: 9–10). Critical
linguistics examines specific practices and assumptions about language that
sustain an uneven distribution of social or economic power. Cameron, Frazer,
Harvey, Rampton, and Richardson (1992) present case studies of research on
dialectology, bilingualism, gender, and race in the vein of critical
linguistics. They model how scholars can establish relationships with people
whose language they are studying, relationships that go beyond passive
collection of data. Cameron et al. urge researchers to assume, as part of the
ethical burden of doing research, the responsibility of helping empower people
to resist social and economic inequity. In these ways, language testing, TESOL,
and critical linguistics may have the liveliest traditions of reflection on
ethical issues. There are also other sub-fields within applied linguistics
where ethics is the topic of at least occasional discussion. For a special
issue of Issues in Applied Linguistics, Carolyn Temple Adger and Jeff Connor Linton
(1993) collected essays on ethics across a range of applied-linguistic
concerns. Each essay narrates an applied linguist’s actual experiences
grappling with ethical matters, with contributions from forensic linguistics,
language testing, speech-language pathology, social dialectology, computational
linguistics, and conversational analysis.

linguistics to the disciplines of anthropology and sociology, Newman and
Ratliff (2001: 9) remark on how little awareness the former exhibits of ethical
matters. SLA seems to share this orientation with linguistics in general.
Ortega (2005: 429) attributes the absence of ethical self-awareness in English
teach research to an ‘illusion that somehow neutrality is inherent in the
concerns of the field’. She counters this stance by asserting, in concert with
most of modern philosophy of science, that ‘value-free research is impossible’
(p. 432).

Guidelines and codes of ethics in research on English Teaching methods

contrast between the sparse attention paid to ethical issues within second
language, and the relatively high ethical self-consciousness of applied
linguistics, is reflected in the production of professional guidelines or codes
of ethics. Several organizations of applied linguists have disseminated
statements that define adequate and inadequate ethical practices. On its
website, the International Language Testing Association has posted a nine-point
Code of Ethics for professional language testers, largely taken up with
explication of abstract principles like ‘Language testers shall have respect
for the humanity and dignity of each of their test takers’, and ‘Language
testers shall share the responsibility for upholding the integrity of the
language testing profession’ (ILTA, 2000). In addition, the ILTA has
established a Code of Practice that specifies the rights and responsibilities
of test designers, administrators, takers, and those who interpret test
results, all worked out in fine detail (ILTA, 2005). Boyd and Davies (2002)
argue that language testers need both such a profession-wide code of ethics,
and context-specific codes of practice tailored to the different social and
cultural niches where language testing takes place; each code of practice
constitutes a ‘local gloss on the universalist principles’ (p. 312) that a code
of ethics supplies.

broader and more ambitious attempt to define ethical standards has been
undertaken by the British Association for Applied Linguistics. In 1994 BAAL
released a text, now accessible online, entitled ‘Recommendations on Good
Practice in Applied Linguistics’ (BAAL, 2006), through which the organization
aimed to ‘provide guidance for its membership on relations with the wider
community, and the ethical conduct of their own applied linguistics research’
(BAAL, 1997: 14). The BAAL Recommendations comprise 17 painstakingly-groomed
pages of guidelines for professional practice, framed as definitions of the
responsibilities of applied linguists in various domains: responsibilities to
informants; to colleagues; to students; to the field of applied linguistics; to
the public. In addition, there is advice and commentary on the ethical
dimensions of the relationships applied linguists form with their own research,
with sponsors, and with their home institutions.

BAAL Recommendations are presented as an outline comprised of numbered entries,
with detailed matters expanded as bulleted sub points. In an unusual step, the
Association has also posted a much shorter second version of their
Recommendations addressed to students, entitled ‘Recommendations on good
practice in Applied Linguistics student projects’ (BAAL, 2000). This comprises
a lucid, minimally elaborated, six-point text that reminds students of the core
responsibilities they bear in working with informants. For example, the BAAL
document advises student’s pointblank to avoid deceptive or covert research,
while conceding the acceptability of distraction. In summary, there exists a
precedent for reflection and debate about ethics in disciplines that neighbor
the study of second language learners, played out in conference proceedings,
journal articles, and freestanding books. There also exist models of
carefully-wrought professional codes and explicit standards of practice that
address, at various levels of resolution, issues that bear on some of the
concerns of scholars of second language learners.


Baggini and Fosl emphasize, we do not have a ‘single, complete ethical theory
that answers all the relevant moral questions’ (2007: xvi)—nor even one that
will help us decide what counts as a relevant moral question. Therefore it
would not be surprising if some of the examples discussed in this review
article do not appear to readers to constitute genuine ethical problems. Kimmel
(2007: 5–6), in fact, tries to help readers figure out how to identify an
ethical problem—although of course that act of identification is itself an
exercise of ethical decision-making. Howsoever one recognizes what counts as an
ethical issue; the capacity to consider ethical issues carefully is worth
developing. This is true even in second language learning research, where
ethical choices typically carry lighter burdens than in some other professional
and academic fields.

issues, conflicting values, and ambiguity in decision making, are recurrently
emerging from literature review on teaching research. Because of lack of
clarity in ethical standards, teachers must develop an awareness of these
issues and an effective framework to deal with problems involving human rights.
This is necessary in order to come into terms with the issue of the researcher’s
values relative to the individual’s rights versus the interests of society.
Professional codes, laws, regulations, and ethics committees can provide some
guidance but the final determinant of how research is performed, rests with the
researcher’s value system and moral code. To prepare future teachers, ethics in
research, must receive special attention in teaching curricula. The criticism
and uncertainties that arise should be rather encouraged than suppressed in teaching
education. Hunt suggests that in order to liberate teaching from its
“technocratic impasse” ethics should be broadly interpreted as an
arena of new ideas which can change professional hierarchies, to open
cross-disciplinary discussions. He also declares that teaching, not as a biomedical
branch, but as a science and art of caring, is able to start the redefinition
of research in teaching methods which was in the recent history dominated by
the social media and electronic “paradigm”.


Adger, C. T., and
Connor-Linton, J. 1993. Special issue: Ethical issues in applied linguistics.
Issues in applied linguistics 4, 169–294.

Boyd, K., and Davies,
A. 2002. Doctors’ orders for language testers: The origin and purpose of
ethical codes. Language Testing 19, 296–322.

British Association for
Applied Linguistics. 1997. Notes on the History of the British Association for
Applied Linguistics 1967–1997. Accessed 6 March 2008

British Association for
Applied Linguistics. 2000: Recommendations on good practice in applied
linguistics student projects. Accessed 3 March 2008 goodpractice_stud.pdf

British Association for
Applied Linguistics. 2006: Recommendations on good practice in applied
linguistics. Accessed 3 March 2008

Davies, A. 1997.
Special issue: Ethics in language testing. Language Testing 14, 235– 349.

Dufon, M. 1993. Ethics
in TESOL research. TESOL Quarterly 27: 157–160.

Ortega, L. 2005: For
what and for whom is our research? The ethical as transformative lens in
instructed SLA. The Modern Language Journal 89, 427–443.

International Language
Testing Association. 2000. Code of ethics for ILTA. Accessed 7 September.2009.

Rajagopalan, K. 2004. The
philosophy of applied linguistics. In Davies, A., & Elders, C., editors,
The handbook of applied linguistics. Malden. MA: Blackwell.

Hafernik, J. J.,
Messerschmitt, D. S., and Vandrick, S., editors. 2002. Ethical issues for ESL
faculty: Social justice in practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

National Committee for Research
Ethics in Norway. 2006. Guidelines for research ethics in the social sciences,
law, and the humanities. (