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TCNJ Psychology Department Ethical Principles

Introduction

In this document, we outline four ethical principles to guide conduct within TCNJ’s Psychology Department. We strive to uphold these principles in all of the contexts in which the members of the department engage: in courses, in research, and in the community.  Accordingly, below we outline how our ethical principles apply to each context.

This statement is not intended to replace, but rather expands on existing federal and state protections as well as local policies at TCNJ. Our intention is to more fully articulate the rights and responsibilities of an ethically responsible community of learners in the Psychology Department.  

 

Guiding principles

Principle 1. Commitment to Psychological Learning, Science, and Practice
As members of the TCNJ Psychology Department, we are united in our passion for the field of psychology. We should all strive to learn more about psychology and to help others learn. We should be rigorous in our research and practice, and we should share what we learn with others.

Principle 2. Integrity
The psychological enterprise depends on relationships of trust and honesty, including but not limited to relationships between students and faculty, researchers and participants, clients and therapists, and scientists and the public. To maintain trust, we should present ourselves, our research and practice, and our discipline accurately and honestly at all times. We should not intentionally misrepresent or exaggerate who we are, what we know, or what we have done or could do.

Principle 3. Respect for and Recognition of People’s Rights, Dignity, and Diversity
Following the APA’s ethical principles, we should “respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination.”  We should be “aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences; including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, accent, and socioeconomic status.”  We should limit the effects of bias in our decision-making and we should point out potential bias when we see it.  We should make every effort to display this respect in our psychological endeavors and to maximize the potential benefits of our psychological activities while minimizing the potential harms.

Principle 4. Transparency and Fairness
When we make decisions regarding important outcomes, we should do so as transparently as possible, consistently applying principles and procedures that have been agreed upon by the department.

 

Ethical conduct in coursework

Many of our interactions in the Psychology Department take place in the context of specific courses. This includes what happens in the physical classroom, as well as what happens in related activities, such as office hours, study sessions, completing assignments, and preparing course materials. We should uphold these ethical principles and standards all times across these contexts.

Relevant Roles

  • Instructor
  • Student
  • Instructional Intern

Standards

  1. Instructors are responsible for preparing course materials such as syllabi, lectures, assignments, activities, and discussions in a way that (a) encourages students’ and instructional interns’ learning, (b) is consistent with TCNJ policies and guidelines, and (c) demonstrates enthusiasm for and rigor in psychological research and practice.
    Students and instructional interns can expect instructors to: set deadlines and work demands that are appropriate for achieving learning objectives, and communicate information about course materials clearly. (Principle 1)
  2. Instructors and Instructional Interns should accurately represent their expertise to students, as well as the limits of their expertise. They should share what they know and be open about what they do not know. (Principle 2)
  3. Instructors and Instructional Interns are expected to keep student information private and confidential, as outlined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  They should not share student information with other students or with people outside the college. They should only share information with each other when it is instructionally relevant. (Principles 2 and 3)
  4. Instructors, Instructional Interns, and Students will interact with one another in a way that values all individuals equally and treats all students equitably. (Principles 1 and 3)
  5. Instructors are responsible for articulating clear standards in the assessment of student work, including the work of Instructional Interns. (Principle 4)
  6. Students and Instructional Interns should strive to increase their understanding of psychology. This means that they should work diligently in classes, with learning as a primary goal. (Principle 1)
  7. Students should support each other’s learning, including contributing their fair share to group projects, asking critical questions in class discussions, and giving honest, constructive feedback when a professor asks that they complete a peer review assignment. (Principle 1)
  8. Students and Instructional Interns should present themselves and their work accurately and honestly to Instructors. (Principle 2)
    1. They should not misrepresent their academic standing or history.
    2. They should not lie about why they missed class or handed in an assignment late.
    3. They should fairly represent their contributions to group assignments.
    4. They should not submit others’ work as their own; nor should they knowingly share their work with others who might submit that work as their own.
    5. They should not state or imply that they have read, written, or understood things that they have not, in fact, read, written, or understood.
  9. Instructors, Instructional Interns, and Students should accurately credit the scholarly sources they cite when preparing course materials and assignments. (Principles 1 and 2)

 

Ethical conduct in research

The TCNJ Psychology Department places a strong emphasis on research, both for faculty members and for students. As such, many of our interactions take place in the context of research experiences, such as faculty studies and student projects (e.g., in Research Seminar, Laboratory Learning, Independent Study, or Honors Theses). We should uphold these ethical principles and standards at all times across these contexts. If research experiences take place in the context of specific courses (e.g., PSY 299, PSY 390, PSY 393), the roles and standards outlined for “Ethical conduct in coursework” apply as well.

Relevant Roles

  • Faculty Investigator
  • Student Investigator
  • Research Participants

Standards

  1. Faculty Investigators and Student Investigators should take care in conceptualizing their research projects and devising their methods so that they can maximize their contributions to psychological knowledge and practice while minimizing risk to Investigators and Research Participants. (Principles 1 and 3)
  2. Faculty Investigators and Student Investigators should strive to work collaboratively and communicate openly about the research process. Faculty Investigators should encourage Student Investigators to make contributions to, as well as express concerns about, the research process. (Principles 1 and 2)
    1. Student Investigators should report problems associated with administering research studies, including violations of data collection protocols.
    2. Student Investigators have the right to refuse to participate in research activities that they find objectionable.
  3. Faculty and Student Investigators should do their best to ensure that participants learn about psychology by taking part in research. Investigators should thoroughly provide informed consent to Participants, making sure that individuals understand the benefits and risks involved with a research study. They should also debrief Participants, explaining to them the question under study and the rationale behind the method, including, if applicable, the use of deception in the study. This is especially important in research conducted through PIPER, which has the explicit aim of teaching students about research. (Principles 1 and 2)
  4. Faculty and Student Investigators should be willing to share research findings with other people at TCNJ, other psychologists, or other people in the public at large. When they do so, they should be transparent about the strengths and limits of the research.  (Principles 1 and 2)
  5. When conducting or participating in research, Faculty Investigators, Student Investigators, and Research Participants should be respectful of shared department resources (e.g., communal lab spaces, computers and other research equipment, and PIPER credit). Faculty Investigators and Student Investigators should be mindful that the department has limited resources and many research demands. (Principles 1 and 4)
  6. When conducting research with Student Investigators, Faculty Investigators should be mindful of student learning. Student Investigators are in a uniquely vulnerable position because of the incentives associated with their participation, such as course credit, recommendations from Faculty Investigators, or authorship on presentations and publications. A primary aim of research projects conducted with Student Investigators is to enhance Student Investigators’ understanding of psychological science, not to achieve outcomes such as publications, conference presentations, etc. If research results will be disseminated (e.g., via publications or presentations), Faculty and Student Investigators should discuss the scope of work and the guidelines for determining authorship, as outlined in APA’s description of Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship: http://www.apa.org/research/responsible/publication/index.aspx. (Principles 1 and 2)
  7. Faculty and Student Investigators should be honest and transparent in conducting their studies, analyzing their results, and reporting their findings. (Principles 1 and 2).
    1. They should not copy or fabricate data.
    2. They should report how they determined sample size, all data exclusions (if any), all manipulations, and all measures included in the study.
    3. They should not present exploratory research as hypothesis testing.
  8. Faculty and Student Investigators are expected to respect data integrity (e.g., confidentiality, anonymity), as outlined by the APA Code of Conduct regarding Privacy and Confidentiality (http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx?item=7). They should maintain data security and not share identifiable data from individual participants with anyone who is not a member of the research team. (Principles 2 and 3)
  9. Research Participants should respect that participation is a chance to learn about psychological research and contribute to psychological knowledge. They should respect the time and effort of the investigators. Therefore, they should be engaged and attentive while participating in research. (Principles 1 and 2)
    1. They should carefully read study descriptions and sign up for those whose requirements they are willing and able to meet.
    2. They should provide accurate data.
    3. They should report their time commitment honestly; they should not misrepresent the time they spent participating in order to accumulate additional PIPER credits or other rewards.

 

Ethical conduct in the community

Our endeavors in the field of psychology will affect individuals and institutions outside of the department. We should uphold these ethical principles and standards in these situations at all times, whether we are engaged in the community as an intern, volunteer, clinician, consultant, or presenter.

Relevant Roles

  • Intern: Members of the Psychology Department may take on an internship position (i.e., for course credit) or a volunteer position at organizations dedicated to providing psychological services for various populations. If the internship experience takes place in the context of specific courses (e.g., PSY 383, PSY 399), the roles and standards outlined for “Ethical conduct in coursework” apply as well.
  • Faculty Sponsors: Faculty who sponsor student interns are responsible for the same ethical standards as Instructors (see Ethical conduct in coursework). Faculty Sponsors have additional ethical responsibilities unique to the demands of overseeing student learning and involvement in applied settings.  
  • Representative of the Field: Members of the Psychology Department are representatives of psychology any time they apply their training in the field outside of the department or seek experiences outside the department to further their psychological training.

Standards

  1. Interns, Faculty Sponsors, and Representatives of the Field will apply their psychological training to the experiences of others honestly and commensurately with their level of psychological expertise. Interns, Faculty Sponsors, and Representatives of the Field will acknowledge when they do not have the knowledge or training in psychology to advise an individual or to address a given situation, and seek the expertise of someone who does have relevant knowledge, such as the Faculty Sponsor or Counseling and Psychological Services staff (http://caps.tcnj.edu). (Principles 1 and 2)
  2. When the community activities of Interns and Representatives of the Field give them access to knowledge about other individuals that is sensitive (i.e., information that might socially disadvantage another person were the information to become publicly available), Interns and Representatives of the Field will protect the privacy of these individuals and keep such information confidential. (Principle 3)
  3. Faculty Sponsors will ask Interns whether they have a clear understanding of the nature of their on-site responsibilities, whether they are ethically comfortable with these responsibilities, and whether they receive adequate supervision on site. Faculty Sponsors will help to address and remedy any concerns raised by Interns with on-site supervisors. (Principles 1 and 3)
  4. Interns and Representatives of the Field will interact with individuals in the community in a way that values all individuals equally. (Principle 3)
  5. Interns and Representatives of the Field will use professional behavior and comportment to represent the field of psychology and the Department responsibly. Interns will be honest with colleagues or supervisors concerning their volunteer or internship activities. (Principles 1 and 2)

 

Dissemination

These Ethical Principles will be distributed to all members of the Psychology Department. Students entering TCNJ as Psychology majors will learn about the Principles in the advising course PSY96.  This will include a presentation and a quiz (in class or online) to ensure understanding and acceptance of the principles. The Ethical Principles will also be reviewed in PSY101, Introductory Psychology, and PSY121, Methods and Tools in Psychology, with items added to the PIPER quiz associated with these courses.  Repetition in these classes will ensure that internal transfers to the Psychology Department are exposed to these principles as well as re-emphasize their importance in our community for all students.

Faculty (full time and adjunct) and staff will similarly be given a copy of the Principles when they join the department. Further, faculty will include a link to the Ethical Principles in all course syllabi.  This link will also appear on the department website.

Who to Contact

Violations of specific laws or codes may be addressed directly through their appropriate offices. Individuals unsure about how or where to report such violations should contact the department chairperson. Violations of the ethical principles covered in this document should be reported to the department chairperson who will then refer questions/concerns to the Ethics Committee Chair.

Download Ethical Principles here

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