The Ontario curriculum provides varied opportunities for students to learn about ethical issues and to explore the role of ethics in both public and personal decision making. Students may make ethical judgements when evaluating evidence and positions on various issues, and when drawing their own conclusions about issues, developments, and events. Teachers may need to help students determine which factors they should consider when making such judgements. It is crucial that teachers provide support and supervision to students throughout the research and inquiry process, ensuring that students engaged in an inquiry are aware of potential ethical concerns and that they address such concerns in acceptable ways. Teachers may supervise students’ use of surveys and/or interviews, for example, to confirm that their planned activities will respect the dignity, privacy, and confidentiality of their participants. When students’ activities involve Indigenous communities and/or individuals, teachers need to ensure the appropriate use and protection of Indigenous knowledge. Teachers also supervise the choice of the research topics to protect students from exposure to information and/or perspectives for which they may not be emotionally or intellectually prepared (for example, where a student’s investigation might involve personal interviews that could lead to the disclosure of abuse or other sensitive topics).
Teachers must thoroughly address the issues of plagiarism and cultural appropriation with students. In a digital world that provides quick access to abundant information, it is easy to copy the words, music, or images of others and present them as one’s own. Even at the secondary level, students need to be reminded of the ethical issues related to plagiarism and appropriation. Before starting an inquiry, students should have an understanding of the range of forms of plagiarism and appropriation, from blatant to nuanced, as well as of their consequences. Students often struggle to find a balance between creating works in their own voice or style and acknowledging the work of others. It is not enough to tell them not to plagiarize or appropriate others’ work, and to admonish those who do. Teachers need to explicitly teach all students how to use their own voice or style while appropriately acknowledging the work of others, using accepted forms of documentation.