An underlying principle of the regulations governing use of human subjects in research is that the subject’s participation be voluntary. Due to the inherent power difference between student and instructor, students may feel compelled to participate, believing that failure to do so will negatively affect their grades and the attitude of the teacher (and perhaps other students) toward them. In some situations, recruitment of students into a study by their instructor can be viewed as coercive or forced.
Whenever possible, faculty should avoid using their own students if another population of subjects is equally suited to the research question, such as another class section or lab taught by a different instructor. If that’s not possible, arrange to have the data collected by an independent third party, or use a mechanism where the instructor-researcher isn’t aware who is participating.
In cases where regular classroom activities are also the topic of research, investigators must clarify for potential subjects in the consent form those activities that are optional and distinct from required classroom activities that would take place even without the research. Students should have the opportunity to agree or not to agree to the inclusion of their data in the instructor’s study. Any proposed use of student education records for research must comply with the RIT university policy D15.0 Education Records.
If extra credit is offered as an incentive, an alternate means of earning equivalent credit for an equivalent commitment of time and effort must be made available to all potential student subjects. This will keep students from feeling obligated to participate to earn extra credit.