Reflexivity in Education Research

In educational research, researcher reflection is important when conducting all forms of research. Reflexivity is about being aware of how your own identity and presence influence your research. It involves reflecting on your background, experiences, and knowledge—such as your cultural values, beliefs, and training—and considering how these factors affect your understanding of participants and your research practice (Robinson & Wilson, 2022; American Psychological Association, 2021).

Reflexivity also means being sensitive to power dynamics within the research process. This includes understanding how your role as a researcher influences your relationship with participants and working to protect their interests (Kirby et al., 2017; Holland, 1999). By being mindful of these power differences, you can better ensure a respectful and ethical approach to your research (Scottish Educational Research Association, 2005).

Owing to the biased nature of human evaluations, researchers’ positionality must also be considered. Positionality details the researcher’s view of the world and the research position they adopt, including its social and political context (Holmes, 2020; Savin-Baden & Major, 2023). Researchers can share their positionality in their publications as a few sentences or a few paragraphs, depending on the nature of the study and, of course, page limitations for the publication venue. However, researchers must consider their own privacy needs and vulnerability when publicly sharing their positions (Liang, et al., 2021), weighing this against the need to situate the research.

Understanding Positionality in Education Research

Researcher reflection also requires positionality, which reflects their worldview and the stance researchers take in their research, including its social and political context (Holmes, 2020; Savin-Baden & Major, 2023). Due to the inherent biases in human evaluations, recognizing positionality is crucial for a fair research process.

Researchers can express their positionality in their publications, ranging from a few sentences to a few paragraphs, depending on the study and publication guidelines. However, they should carefully balance sharing their perspectives with their own privacy and vulnerability (Liang et al., 2021). It’s essential to weigh personal disclosure against the need to provide context for the research.

Additional Researcher Reflection

Researcher reflection in education also requires researchers to:

  1. Prioritize Safety and Well-being: This includes protecting the welfare of research staff, anyone involved peripherally, and participants, particularly in fieldwork or sensitive investigations.
  2. Prevent Exploitation of Staff: Ensure that all staff, including students and volunteers, are treated fairly. This means avoiding practices like asking staff to review papers without acknowledgment, requiring extended working hours beyond the typical 8-hour day, or expecting volunteers to review research papers without some form of reciprocation (Scottish Educational Research Association, 2005).

Key Strategies for Engaging in Researcher Reflexivity

Engage in Self-Reflection

Acknowledge researcher’s positionality and its impact on the study, including how it does or does not: mitigate biases, addresses limitations, impacts the data collection process, and impacts the interpretation of data. This includes identifying relevant elements of the researcher’s background, experience, and knowledge (e.g., their technical expertise and prior experiences with computing), whilst safeguarding their well-being (Chouinard & Cousins, 2009). This includes how prior understanding influences their approach to the study design, including reporting (American Psychological Association, 2021).

Engage in reflexivity to consider how the methodological approaches chosen align with the researcher’s lived        experiences and how these choices and experiences impact their research.

Respect participants’ diversity dimensions and avoid using deficit-based framing and discriminatory language across all phases of the study, including research instruments (e.g., existing and new) and reporting. 

Reflect on researcher positionalities and recognise researchers’ own limitations, expanding the research team as necessary (e.g., by considering diversity dimensions that are historically underrepresented in computing) to fill potential gaps in understanding participants and/or getting additional training (Pearson et. al., 2022).

Support researcher well-being

Only engage in research in which the researcher can be perceived as not having any conflict of interest outside of research discovery (e.g., financial, reputational). This does not exclude research methodologies like autoethnographic research or other research that the researcher can engage in because of their unique positionality.

Ensure the safety and privacy of research staff and participants (particularly in fieldwork and when investigating sensitive issues). While ethics review boards often focus on the safety and privacy of participants, considering the well-being of research staff should also be intentionally addressed.

Do not exploit other researchers (including students, staff, and volunteers) (e.g., asking staff to conduct reviews of papers without credit; asking staff to work long, extended hours beyond a typical 8-hour work day; expecting volunteers to review research paper submissions without reciprocation). 

Respect the well-being of the research community, including individual researchers and reviewers when engaging in discussions and when receiving and sharing reviews. 

Consider community-building through mentoring and support of new researchers and researchers from marginalized communities.

Honor the publication’s requirements for who should be included as authors. When authorship requirements prohibit the inclusion of a researcher involved with a study, acknowledge them elsewhere in the publication. 

When using prior research data conducted in cooperation with others, ask for consent to use the underlying data and determine appropriate acknowledgement of contributions.

Additional Resources


American Psychological Association. (2021). Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS). Retrieved from

Chouinard, J. A., & Cousins, J. B. (2009). A review and synthesis of current research on cross-cultural evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation, 30(4), 457–494.

Guba, E. G., Lincoln, Y. S., & Others. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2(163–194), 105.

Holmes, A. G. D. (2020). Researcher Positionality–A Consideration of Its Influence and Place in Qualitative Research–A New Researcher Guide. Shanlax International Journal of Education, 8(4), 1-10.

Hood, S. (1998). Responsive evaluation Amistad style: Perspectives of one African American evaluator. Proceedings of the Stake Symposium on Educational Evaluation, 101–112. ERIC.

Kirby, S. L., Greaves, L., & Reid, C. (2006). Experience research social change: Methods beyond the mainstream. University of Toronto Press.

Liang, C.A., Munson, S.A., and Kientz, J.A. (2021). Embracing Four Tensions in Human-Computer Interaction Research with Marginalized People. ACM Trans. Comput. Hum. Interact. 28, 2, Article 14, 47 pages.

Pearson, M. I., Castle, S. D., Matz, R. L., Koester, B. P., & Byrd, W. C. (2022). Integrating critical approaches into quantitative STEM equity work. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 21(1), es1.

Robinson, O., & Wilson, A. (2022). Practicing and presenting social research.

Savin-Baden, M., & Major, C. H. (2023). Qualitative research: The essential guide to theory and practice. Taylor & Francis.

Scottish Educational Research Association. 2005. Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research. Scottish Educational Research Association. 1–15 pages.