From the outset we need to be mindful of:

Protecting personal data – GDPR is a European agreement on data protection. ISF has a policy presented to all staff and parents that is signed on admission to the school. All researchers should re-read this document (I’ll make it available/linked here)

Doing no harm – this may seem self-evident but, harm, can also mean disadvantaging one group against another, for example with random controlled trials. Where a trial group makes significant gains, the trial or intervention should either stop or immediately involve the control group and reframe the project.

Confidentiality – internal, practitioner research generally means that confidentiality is of much the same nature as normal classroom practice and teacher researchers would behave in the same way as they would when handling any student or staff data. However, observing good ethical research practice recommends we treat data as an external would be expected – we anonymise data sets: Student A, Grade (probably OK to number the Grade unless this easily identifies the student – use age instead), School: Blue International School, Italy, Teacher/member of staff 16. We keep a confidential record of our coding system and ensure we follow procedure regarding basic security – locked devices, safely stored.
Where written notes, field journals, google docs are used to record data and reflections, again we ensure these are safely and securely stored. This is especially the case if you use a field journal (recommended) and have it to hand for observations.

Informed consent – school-based, practitioner research is mostly about the kinds of work you would do in your classroom within normal classroom conventions. This includes doing surveys, questionnaires, discussion groups, analysing attainment data, lesson observation…However, we have already informed and involved our school community in research as an important way of learning (inquiry-based). It therefore seems to be a simple matter of courtesy to make it clear when collecting or clarifying data involving community participants, that we make it clear this is for a research project. We will publish to our community the research themes operating during 2020, including parent research groups.

Parent research groups – this is a hugely significant addition to our research portfolio and is a cutting edge development. Generally parent researchers are not professional teachers working at the school and so do not have automatic access to student records or to staff email/contacts. There is a different level of ethical consideration operating here, in much the same way as external researchers operating in a school. We will discuss ethical approaches thoroughly and design our own code during F2F1. If in doubt parent researchers should always consult the Director of Research.


For ISF teacher/staff researchers most of your work will be covered under normal working practice. In this sense you do not need consent from participants.
It would be quite reasonable to ask for information about learning from children, students, parents and other staff – short questionnaires, interviews, observations, trying out new teaching tools and techniques…

HOWEVER – ethically you should consider when it is just plain good manners and best research practice to

  • inform your participants that you are conducting research,
  • what it is you are actually doing,
  • and ask for their permission to gather and use data from them,
    as appropriate.
  • Some example letters requesting consent and informing about research

It is also good practice to

  • trial your collection methods before you launch them;
  • check for accuracy after you have interviewed someone and want to use what they said;
  • and invite participants at the end to share in your findings – again ‘as appropriate’

The basic principle is ’cause no harm’ (see the BERA guidelines on conducting research for a full understanding of research ethics)

Further guidelines:

Please read the following discussion document carefully. This is a requirement of participating in the ISF Research Programme: consent-and-ethics-guidelines-01:2020

Further links: BERA 

2010_rep__ethical_review_and_childrens_research Ethical Review from Ireland – research paper – lengthy but very good

The following may be of interest:
Example of an opt-out ethics permission:Sheffield Hallam University Sport Survey

A very useful site: CARN

NOTE For internal teacher conferences you should be covered by the school policy on GDPR.

If you present outside or wish to write up your findings for publication then you must consider further and specific consent from participants – teachers/parents/students.

If in any doubt, please consult with the Director of Research.

Clarification of Italian and ISF GDPR regulations can always be obtained from the Business Office, ISF.