Acknowledgements Pauline Ginsberg co-editor; Veronica Thomas contributor; Raychelle Harris and Heidi Holmes as co-authors to the chapter on transformative research ethics; full list of contributors on flyer.
Codes and guidelines do not answer all ethical questions. Hence, K&K developed a 5 level model that provides a broader framework for understanding the meaning of ethics in evaluation.
Before I introduce the 5 level model, I want to make a few more comments about the contributions of other authors to the handbook. Authors were asked to reflect on the meaning of ethics within the contexts in which they work, whether that was with Native American, African American, Hispanic, African, the elderly, children, LGBTQ, deaf, disabled communities. These reflections led Pauline Ginsberg and I to add a third fundamental question that addresses the contextual issues of ethics directly. The exploration of answers to this question will be used as a lens to explore deeper meanings in the Kitchener’s 5 level model.
Relay interpreter: He was in court. This is while he was in the actual courtroom – he stood in front of the judge and he was told don’t use communication. Let the interpreter take care of the communication, and all you are allowed to answer is yes or no. He was told to keep you hands to the side; don’t sign. (Real time transcript, March 30, 1996; Chicago, IL, Mertens, 2000). A deaf blind woman was raped by a man she worked with who had offered her a ride home from work. When she went to the police, there was no interpreter available. The police sent her to social services where there was an interpreter. The lawyer for the accused rapist showed up at social services but did not work appropriately with the interpreter. Later, when the woman went to court she was told that her case had been dismissed; the lawyer said it had something to do with how you reported the crime. She does not understand to this day what happened. (Mertens, 2000). A user of Mexican Sign Language told of his experiences of getting a ticket for not having his seat belt on. When he went to the court to pay the fine, no one could communicate with him. They tried spoken English, written English, ASL, spoken Spanish and written Spanish, all to no avail – the man used MSL. So, he left in frustration. Later, he didn’t have enough money for metro, so he jumped the turnstile. A police officer saw him and checked his record and found that he had a bench warrant for his arrest. If a person does not show up in court when they are supposed to, the court issues a bench warrant – which means they can arrest you if they find you again. So, he was brought to jail; again no one could communicate with him, so he sat in jail for 3 days until someone he knew happened to see him. Then the “wheels of justice” started to roll. People who were deaf in the sense that they could not hear anything reported that court personnel told them that if they could speak that well, they didn’t need any accommodations.
Particular cases – ordinary moral sense – contrast ordinary moral sense as it is seen by US-based, hearing, able-bodied evaluators from the dominant culture as compared to such groups as Maori, Africans, deaf people. Is the ordinary moral sense universal? What are the uniquenesses that need to be considered if evaluation is to be ethical in a specific context? For example, Fiona Cram writes of the ordinary moral sense of the Maori community and notes that Maori’s value open discussion and communal decision making about what is important to them. Hence, evaluators need to establish a relationship of trust over a period of time with members of this community in order to function in an ethical manner. In Africa, there is also a strong sense of communal knowledge construction; this involves knowing the meanings of life experiences relevant to the evaluation topic from the perspective of the community. Harris, Holmes and Mertens in a forthcoming issue of Sign Language Studies have an article that sets up a forum for discussion about the meaning of ethical evaluation in the deaf community from the perspective of a transformative stance that emphasizes social justice outcomes. Whose ordinary moral sense should be used to frame ethical decision making? What are the issues of power in making such determinations?
Ordinary moral sense is not sufficient to guide evaluators because we lack information about specific situations that as a evaluator we might encounter in practice and how the ordinary moral sense might apply. There is a need for a more formalized set of rules. Ethical rules – professional association codes; laws that govern such as those of the Institutional Review Boards that are responsible to the federal government and other ethical review boards for evaluation, e.g., school districts. Indigenous communities have set up their own IRBs that are community based. E.g., Maori’s; American Indians. Members of the LGBTQ community see the need to have community based advisory boards. Conflicts can arise in IRBs regulations and those of indigenous or community based boards. For example,, signed consent forms with nonliterate groups, or those who have been betrayed by signing papers in the past, or those who feel threatened by signing a paper because they may stand to lose benefits if they are found out, or those who believe that your word is based on trust, being asked to sign a paper is an insult. Qualitative evaluators who have an emerging design are expected to know who they will interview before the study begins and what questions they will ask – this is a source of tension in ethical terms. Professional codes of ethics e.g. controversy – evaluation on terror and interrogation. Revisions of a number of organizations codes to include reference to cultural competence as a necessary predisposition for ethical work. Professional codes of ethics and other regulatory guidance is helpful, but not sufficient as there can be controversies and conflicts associated with these – which takes us to the next level of abstraction in terms of understanding ethics – principles.
Ethical principles – beneficence – do good; avoid harm (nonmaleficence) Ethical theory – utilitarianism; rights based theories Meta-ethics
Respect – participants freely choose to participate in and/or withdraw from study. Move to cultural terms of respect and find differences in meaning – e.g., Maori – situate yourself;
Ethical principles: Justice Questions: What are the important dimensions of diversity to include in evaluation in order to give accurate and appropriate representation to groups who have been pushed to the margins in society? What is the ethical responsibility of the evaluator to identify and appropriately address those dimensions of diversity? What is the ethical cost of ignoring or inappropriately representing dimensions of diversity in evaluation?
Ethics and Program Evaluation: Grounded in Social Justice
Ethics and Program Evaluation:
Grounded in Social Justice
Donna M. Mertens
Fundamental ethical questions
• What is the ethically proper way to
collect, process, and report research
• How should social scientists behave
with respect to their research subjects
[evaluation participants]? (Kitchener
&Kitchener, 2009, p. 6)
• Answers: codes of ethics, federal
guidelines, general ethical principles
• What ethical considerations are
imposed by the pre-existing social
context in which any specific piece of
research [evaluation] is contemplated?
(Ginsberg & Mertens, 2009, p. 582)
• Answers: dependent on paradigm,
evaluation focus, population,
Transformative Paradigm & Ethics
• Social justice
• Human rights
• Respect for cultural norms
• Axiology is the driving force for the
other sets of belief associated with the
ETHICS: Court Access for Deaf and
Hard of Hearing People
• “Keep your hands at your sides.”
• “The case was dismissed; something to do with how
you reported the crime”
• Jail time for seatbelt violation
• “If you can speak that well, you don’t need any
accommodations” (Mertens, 2000)
What is of importance here?
Ethics = Social Justice = Transformative Evaluation
5 level model of ethics in research
Kitchener & Kitchener, 2009, p. 9
• Particular cases – ordinary moral
• Ethical rules - codes; laws
• Ethical principles – beneficence;
• Ethical theory – utilitarianism; rights
• Meta-ethics – study of ethics
• Particular cases – ordinary moral sense
• Cultural issues
• Maori (Cram, 2009); African (Chilisa, 2009)
• Deafness (Mertens et al., 2009; Harris,
Holmes, & Mertens, 2009)
• Raises questions of power; unearned
privilege; discrimination & oppression
• Institutional Review Boards – protects
the individual & the institution
• Indigenous IRBs (LaFrance & Crazy Bull,
• Community advisory boards (LGBTQ,
• Professional codes of ethics: Revisions
& controversies (APA, AEA, NASW,
Ethical Principles: Beneficence
• Transformative questions
• Who benefits? Reciprocity?
• Community ownership?
• Generate knowledge/Enhance social justice?
• Responsibility for use? Publish/social
• Accessible formats?
Ethical Principles: Respect
• Cultural meanings: Maori – reveal
yourself & your connections (Cram)
• Adversarial communities - openness
(peace polling, Irwin, 2009; school
evaluation, Howe & MacGillivary, 2009);
making visible hegemonic power
structures (Kendall, 2006)
Ethical Principles: Justice
• Nondiscrimination in participation &
• Address issues of diversity
• Power & status issues around
dimensions of diversity: language;
disability; gender; race/ethnicity
Social Justice & Dimensions of
• Myth of homogeneity (Mertens, 2005)
• Sampling with dimensions of diversity in
mind: Who needs to be included? How can
people be included in the most appropriate
• But, is an African an African an African?
• Is a person with a disability a person with a
disability a person with a disability?
(Mertens & McLaughlin, 2004)
Diversity and Sampling Strategies
Example: Deaf/HH court access
• Communication - languages and modes:
American Sign Language; highly educated
ASL; limited education
Gesture/pantomime/limited signing/low literacy
Hard of hearing people with assistive listening
• Oral deaf adults
• Mexican sign language
• Other dimensions of diversity: gender,
race/ethnicity; status with court
We…need enhanced understandings of
related systemic processes of
asymmetric power relations and
privilege, not simply awareness and
knowledge of difference and diversity…
Hazel Symonette (2004).
How and to what extent is sociocultural
diversity associated with patterned
differences in access, resource
opportunities, and life chances?” (p.
• Utilitarianism – the greatest good
• Rights-based theories - individual-based;
dignity and respect
• Social justice theories – societal level;
inclusion of those denied access to power
• Commensurate theories with ethical
implications: feminists, critical race theory,
queer theory, post-colonial, indigenous
• Critically engaging in discourse about
• Fostering involvement of diverse voices
• Recognition of issues of power
• Preparation of new evaluators
• Role of the evaluator (advocate?)
Power issues & Methodological
• Determination of the evaluation
focus, planning, implementation
and use from a transformative
• Power can be reframed in
Cyclical model for Transformative Research (Mertens, in press)
• Mertens, D. M. & Ginsberg, P. (2009). (Eds.)
Handbook of Social Research Ethics.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
• Mertens, D. M. (2005). Research and
evaluation in education and psychology:
Integrating diversity with qual, quant and
mixed methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
• Mertens, D. M. (2009). Transformative
research & evaluation. NY: Guilford
• Donna M. Mertens
• Gallaudet University
Promote human rights
Cultural Norms; Trust
Benefits accrue to
those at risk
Further social justice
In specific method
Quantitative, qualitative, mixed
Dimensions of diversity
identified and supported