Student participation in health professions education research: in pursuit of the Aristotelian mean
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In research ethics reviews, traditional approaches of research ethics boards (REBs) balance the risks with the potential for benefit of proposed studies, and this review process has been similar for health professions education research (HPER) as it has been for clinically based studies. Health professions students are the primary population from which most education researchers draw their participants although relatively little discussion has taken place in the literature regarding student participation in HPER. The majority of HPER studies could be considered minimal risk and therefore many have suggested that such studies be exempted from REB review. However, there are not only risks to student participants which require consideration, but I argue that when this issue is viewed through the lens of Aristotle's virtue ethics, there are also potential benefits to the student, for which REB oversight can be helpful, that have not factored strongly into discussions. This paper seeks to highlight the key factors involved in student participation in HPER; to explore Aristotle's doctrine of the mean and to evaluate how this ethical framework can add value to the discussion; and to propose possible applications of the Aristotelian mean to this issue and address some of the challenges that would arise with its application.
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