Classroom Activities

Many academic courses at Emory include instruction on research methods and research design; sometimes this is done through hands-on projects. On their face it may appear that these types of projects require IRB review, but there are actually many cases in which that is not the case. The reasoning goes back to the definition of generalizable; classroom activities are often meant specifically to satisfy a course requirement or to teach a particular lesson, they are oftentimes not intended to spread beyond the classroom in a way that would suggest generalizable research.

Another form of classroom activity is when instructors/professors innovate in order to improve their pedagogy. These can be systematic changes with data analysis from before and after the innovation. No IRB review is required when the intention is solely to improve the teacher’s own teaching methods, or even when a whole department implements a new curriculum, which they want to evaluate to see how well it works. However, if an instructor or department/School has an academic interest is pedagogy, and they are using their classroom partly as a “laboratory” to test innovations with the goal of contributing to generalizable knowledge about pedagogy, IRB submission would likely be required (though we will probably determine the project to be “exempt” research).

Below are some criteria that tend to be representative of either classroom activities or research; this list is to be used as a guide not a definitive determination:

Common Elements
Classroom Activity Research
Done for the purpose of fulfilling academic requirements Done, at least in part, for purposes beyond the classroom, drawing conclusions to contribute to the broader field
Focused on teaching a particular skill or lesson (e.g. conducting surveys, scientific method) Focused on exploring a particular topic or theory
The nature of the project only exposes participants to minimal risks Research may involve procedures that present more than minimal risk