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Student and Teacher Observation and Human Subject Research

The archdiocese supports teacher education and recognizes the value of high-quality research for improving education and serving the needs of future generations. Legal and moral obligations require oversight of these activities. This protocol is intended to:

  • Protect students and employees from risk of harm, violations of rights, and loss of privacy

  • Protect the educational process from unwarranted distractions and interruptions

  • Protect resources, including data, from misappropriation for private or unjustified use

The school principal must give written permission before allowing students or teachers to be observed by persons who wish to fulfill requirements of a teacher preparation or credential program. Locations do not need Department of Catholic Schools permission for these purposes.

The person in charge at the location must contact the assistant superintendent assigned to the location for guidance if any person wishes to conduct human subject research, defined as collecting data through (a) intervention or interaction with students, teachers, or staff, or (b) use of identifiable private information.

Teacher Credentialing and Student or Teacher Observation

Individuals enrolled in a teacher preparation, credential, or masters program who are required to observe students or teachers must first obtain permission from the person in charge at the location. They must provide the following:

  • Letter from an accredited educational institution attesting to the student's enrollment in a course that requires classroom observation

  • Description of the nature and extent of their activity in the classroom

Human Subject Research

Individuals who wish to conduct other research in a school must submit a formal written request to the school and the Department of Catholic Schools. Prospective researchers must supply clearance from the applicable bodies that approve research projects at the university or institution with which they are affiliated ("Institutional Review Board" or "IRB").

The written request must contain the following materials:

  • A cover letter that includes the researcher's name, university or institution affiliation, and university or institution address

  • An approval document from the researcher's Institutional Review Board or similar body

  • A statement of the purpose of the study

  • Description of the potential usefulness of the research to education or other use

  • Description of the population that is the direct subject of the study

  • Information concerning any known risks and benefits the research might have for participants

  • The impact, if any, of the study on those not directly involved in the study

  • The procedures for conducting the research project, including the nature and degree of the school's involvement

  • The projected time frame

  • Copies of tests, questionnaires, oral interview questions, and any other research materials ("Research Materials") to be used

  • A sample disclosure letter to be sent to parents/guardians, if applicable

  • The provisions and assurances to preserve privacy rights and confidentiality regarding data collecting procedures and data reporting

  • Compensation to the research subjects, if applicable

  • Subject's Bill of Rights

  • Informed Consent Forms, including a sample minor's assent to participate in research form, if applicable

  • Appropriate educational activities for students who may be part of a control group

  • A representation that all who will be in contact with minors shall meet all legal and archdiocesan requirements for fingerprinting​, background checks, and similar measures intended to safeguard children

Department of Catholic Schools Research Review Process

The Department of Catholic Schools will review written requests to conduct research in schools. Consultation with experts in the field, when appropriate, will be undertaken in evaluating research proposals using the following criteria:

  • The potential educational merit of the study

  • Evidence of bona fide university or institutional affiliation

  • Appropriate supervision of the researcher at the location and by the affiliated institution

  • Minimum disruption to the school schedule

  • Adherence to standard, ethical research guidelines, applicable Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements and Roman Catholic norms

Notification that the research proposal is approved or not approved will be given in writing to the researcher and, where applicable, to the IRB by the Department of Catholic Schools. The Department of Catholic Schools will notify the location of the decision reached.

The Department of Catholic Schools reserves the right to terminate any research project involving Catholic schools in the archdiocese with or without cause at any time.

Participating Location Obligations

Although a research project may have received prior approval from the Department of Catholic Schools, the principal, in consultation with the pastor (where applicable), is responsible for determining whether to participate in the research project.

The researcher must provide the participating principal with a copy of the approval letter from the Department of Catholic Schools; a copy of any communication to teachers, parents/guardians, etc.; and a copy of all materials and/or instruments to be used.

The school and researcher must make every effort to minimize disruption to the daily school schedule.

If the subjects involved are students, permission for their participation must be obtained in writing from parents/guardians and Informed Consent Forms and Subject's Bill of Rights forms ("Disclosure Materials") must be provided to students and parents/guardians.

Parent/Guardian Communication and Informed Consent

Communication to parents/guardians about research projects should be handled in collaboration with the principal. The names and addresses of students or parents/guardians should not be given to the researcher without the prior consent of the parents/guardians.

Informed consent requires that parents/guardians are given sufficient information about the research, prior to granting permission for their child's participation. Informed consent also implies that parents/guardians, upon written request to the school and to the researcher, may preview the Research Materials at the school.

Parents/guardians have the right to withhold permission for their child to participate in research studies. Parents/guardians have the right to withdraw their child at any time from a research project without reprisal.

Except in a limited range of research areas where an Institutional Review Board determines that a waiver of assent is appropriate, student assent to participation in a research project must be obtained. If a student reaches the age of consent applicable to the subject matter of the research project, the student must be given the opportunity to provide informed consent. Students have the right to withhold their assent and have the right to withdraw without penalty. Students who are not participants in research studies may not be singled out in any way or penalized.

If requested, all Disclosure Materials and, where possible, all Research Materials must be provided to the students and parents/guardians in the language with which they are most familiar.

Appropriate educational activities for children in control groups or for children not participating in the research project should be considered and provided, if necessary.

Conclusion of Research Project

The researcher must provide an abstract and final report to the participating school(s) and the Department of Catholic Schools. Depending on the circumstances and nature of the study, the Department of Catholic Schools may require negotiations as to assignment of intellectual property rights arising out of the study and any future use of the research study results.​