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FAQ for Academic Assessment Research

When do I need IRB approval?

Often times, academic assessment data (e.g., grades, course work, surveys, interviews, etc.) are only used to provide feedback to students, improve a course or program, or report findings to the Office of Assessment for University-wide educational program improvement. For such cases, KU IRB approval is not required.

However, at times, there are plans - prior to data collection - to disseminate results outside of the University (e.g., publish, present findings at a conference, report findings to a granting agency). This situation fits the definition of systematic research that is adding to the generalizable knowledge and the usual rules apply. For such cases, KU IRB approval is required.

Please consult KU IRB for help deciding whether IRB approval is required.

Note: Releasing data to accrediting agencies in order to present evidence of improvement of student learning does not constitute dissemination of research results/data, and therefore does not require IRB approval.

Do I need IRB approval before or after I collect / analyze assessment data?

Before collecting assessment data from students (e.g., survey, focus group), classroom data (e.g., coursework, senior projects), or student academic data, ask yourself whether you intend to disseminate findings or would disseminate if the findings are interesting / valuable. If the answer to either of these questions is 'yes', IRB approval is required PRIOR TO the collection of data.

If, during the initial collection of assessment data, there is no intention to disseminate findings (even if the findings are interesting / valuable), however interest for disseminating results or analyzing data for research / dissemination purposes develops at a later date, IRB approval for the analysis / use of existing data is required as soon as there is intent to analyze the existing data for research / dissemination purposes.

To emphasize, if you have ANY intention of using future classroom data for presentations, publications, or any other dissemination purposes before you start the project, you are required to obtain IRB approval prior to the collection of such data. In addition, IRB approval is required PRIOR TO the analysis of previously collected (e.g., past semesters) data (e.g., coursework, grades, attendance rates, etc.) for research / dissemination purposes. Failure to obtain proper IRB approval at the appropriate time (i.e., at the time of intent to use, collect, or analyze data for dissemination purposes) is considered to be noncompliance and you may be unable to publish your data.


Source: Virginia Tech IRB; KU IRB would like to thank the Virginia Tech IRB for permission to use information from their FAQ for Academic Assessment Research