Ethics, Scientific Research, & Practitioner Inquiry

“Is there an ethical difference between scientific research and practitioner inquiry?”

Though I strive to be a Lecturer in Dance, I am also a Secondary science teacher with a PhD and quality assurance and research background in science. There is no link between these disciplines in the eyes of many of my work colleges who see their discipline in isolation and as the most important. This said, I have met many dance teachers with a degree in Science who are teaching dance at professional level (For example: See earlier post on interview with Linda Dadd).

In my own practice I have no obvious pathway. I do see that practitioner enquiry provides a defined link between Biology and Dance. I find that science provides a clear outlet for research on quantifying the movement and function of the body with emotional understanding of dancers movement experience. I have also observed both scientific research and practitioner enquiry have identical ethical procedures as effective practitioners should promote good morals when planning, performing and evaluating projects. I have completed COSSH forms for risk assessments, written documents on ethical approaches to experimentation on different subjects, issued consent forms and received ethical approval from a range of institutions [See appendix for my references to date].

My ethical approach to teaching scientific research projects

When teaching National 3/4/5 Science within one class, I introduce enough background to set the scene and allow students to link to prior learning. This ensures an ethical approach as the subject material is suited to their age/stage and all students have equal opportunity to perform well. We have studied one or two units by the time students perform their enquiry assignment. In line with CfE requirements students select the topic they will study in depth based on their own interests. This flexibility allows students to select a topic which will allow them to show off their skills and which will apply to their current thinking or future employment or study.

We discuss as a class what could be included in background research. This shows students how to write an application and effects on society/environment and then to plan and progress thinking through background research. Students need direction on how to set out an introduction. Students perform a literature review and write their own background based on the discussed and agreed plan. The content is adapted by students at their level and with their own ideas.

My students are involved in the planning process before experimental design. They write an aim to focus their research consider dependant and independent variables and design their methodology. I have incorporated the video-clip from Online session 2 to assist their understanding of variables. We then build quantitative and qualitative data as terms and consider how best to complete observations based on the aim. Students are driving the process of the lesson (student choice), but I need to guide  analyse the efficacy of planning to meet curricular requirements.

I ensure each student varies a different factor in their practical work. I find that the class often have a similar control and completing this as a group allows students to understand the technique before competing the experiment independently.  All students must be warned of safety issues and report this in written form in their final document

To gain understanding as responsible citizens of how this work links to society and the environment they find one piece of relevant data and complete a calculation or graph which shows they understand how to manipulate data. Inclusion is achieved by differentiation of content in their chosen piece of literature or in the calculations performed.

Students complete a conclusion and evaluation to indicate their understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the data and methodology.

My evaluation of this enquiry approach

A whole class guided approach allows all students to contribute suggest a basic method for their control experiment. Students independently adjust the control procedures to suit the variable they investigate. After feedback and  safety  briefing on their planned methodology, the students are ready to begin.

Following their investigation students find means of their replicate results to improve reliability. They plot a graph of mean data and formulate a conclusion based on their results and initial aim. Since students all investigated a different variable their results and conclusions will be different.

I feel the most important section of their report is the evaluation. Students state one part of their method which could be improved for accuracy. They explain why a mean is calculated and why a mean of class results would be more reliable.

Quantitative studies teach control of variables and scientific principles. The ethicsof the approach is the same whether I had focussed on Qualitative data  through surveys, interviews, qualitative assessment of work, etc. But completing qualitative research without feedback to participants will not change their practice.

I am hoping that through my practitioner enquiry  this inquiry will help me to start the project in the beginning of April with a firm and engaging lesson plan.

In terms of ethics in practice, I think qualitative research (explained at a basic level here) and qualitative investigation together actually allows for practitioner inquiry to be more ethical.

Poor ethical practice I have observed

  • Teachers who went through the motions of enquiry without ever really changing their practice.
  • Teachers directed and dictated results.
  • The teacher allows students to analyse irrelevant data  or inhibits the methods used to document results.
  • Students take a long time to write up their results. Teachers must identify which students need more time but cannot influence their response at the time of writing up.

I believe that ethical practical research is actually grounded in good scientifically based information and practice.


When teaching Higher dance, I was provided with 6 hours to teach students the format and content in each section of their written work and for them to complete the typed choreography written report. This was not long enough.

I felt I could easily provide all students with broad enough skeleton to write about their content aims and where and why they would complete their choreography. However, although the choreography had been prepared, students had only completed this based on practical examples in my workshop and had not linked practical-theory. The 14 students had excellent ideas and creative approach exploring their interpretation of a theme. They had not done any background research into their individual themes. This meant insufficient time to develop ideas and receive enough recognition to direct this themselves. This is an example of a stressful and unethical approach caused by limited time and a culture where were students unwilling to complete any work from home. The enquiry process had not been linked to he intended outcome. Students passed as I took all projects home after each 2 hour session and provided individual questions for each student that would direct but not instruct the next stage of their write-up in as short a time as possible.


My references to date (Just so they are stated somewhere not as a promotional event):


Investigating the effect of age, gender and ability on students’ capacity to link particle diagrams with stoichiometry and theory. Completed in part fulfilment of PGDE Biology and Chemistry with Science.


Effect of age, gender, and teaching style on the learning style and recall of secondary dance students


McCartney, Claire E. and McClafferty, Heather, Huibant, J. M.,and Rowan, Edward.G. and Shipston, Michael J. and Rowe, Iain C.M. (2005) A cysteine-rich motif confers hypoxia sensitivity to mammalian large conductance voltage- and Ca-activated K (BK) channel alpha-subunits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102 (49). pp. 17870-17876. ISSN 0027-8424   LINK: BK channels

Communications and abstracts

  1. McCartney, C.E,  Rowan E.G. & Rowe I.C.M. (2004) The effects of redox agents and hypoxia on the activity of neuronal large conductance calcium-activated potassium (BKCa) channels expressed in AtT20 and HEK 293 cell lines.  Abstract to the Society for Neuroscience. San Diego , USA.
  2. McCartney, C.E,  Rowan E.G. & Rowe I.C.M. (2003)  The effects of hypoxia on the activity of neuronal large conductance calcium-activated potassium (BKCa) channels in AtT20 and HEK 293 cell lines.  J.Physiol. 551P, C40
  3. McCartney, C.E., Rowan, E.G. & Rowe, I.C.M. (2002) The effects of hypoxia on the activity of neuronal large conductance calcium-activated potassium channels. Br.J.Pharmacol. 137, 41P.
  4. McCartney, C.E., Rowan, E.G. & Rowe, I.C.M. (2002) The effects of hypoxia and anoxia on the activity of neuronal large conductance calcium-activated potassium channels. Abstract to the Society for Neuroscience. Orlando, USA


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