“At first, professors were reluctant to share their thoughts in relation to their own methodological approaches used in their classrooms. They felt that their confidentiality was exposed, i.e., questioned.”
This remark strikes me as very similar to how a Japanese professor would react. Aspinall (2013) talks about ‘academic freedom’ and ‘faculty autonomy’ (p. 101) and notes that, “In Japan it is common to find the attitude among university professors, …, that what they do in their classroom or lecture theatre is their own private business” (p. 101). It’s practically unthinkable in my working environment to comment on the ability, style, or efficacy of another professor, and even knowing the content of another class would raise an eyebrow.
And allied to that, when you commented that “By making you aware of some issues that I have experienced in my work setting, I might be sharing some sensitive information or confidentiality from the eye of the people involved in my story”, I gained an insight into the nature of confidentiality as it impacts on my own situation. Are we even able to make ostensibly innocuous comments such as this fictitious one; “A colleague avoided placing a student in the position of losing face the other day when he deliberately pretended that it was he who had forgotten the meeting time”? Where is the line to be drawn?
In this discussion, I’ve moved away from considering the nature of the concepts of confidentiality, trust, and privacy onto wondering about the range of activities that are acceptable. This, too, has been turned around. Initially, I thought about how I should maintain the dignity and confidentiality of others after reading their potentially sensitive information. Now, I realise (far too late in the week, I’m afraid) that the whole episode was about getting us to think about what are the things we can and cannot do from our own volition using our own-sourced information.
Currently, I have far more questions than answers. For example, I’m taking a primarily essentialist view of confidentiality (i.e. that there are some immutable dimensions within the notion of confidentiality) and tentatively accepting the inclusion of the element that confidentiality is something which is agreed upon by interested parties. Given this, am I disallowed from using information that in whole or in part belongs to someone else without their open consent? Am I to make all allusions to work colleagues so veiled, so camouflaged, or to avoid them all together? Am I to make all references anonymous (following the advice of Anderson and Simpson (2007)) to the extent that the originating person could not identify themselves? Pragmatically, there needs to be boundaries otherwise nothing could get done. This is something I need to continue thinking about, but boy! am I late to the conversation!
Anderson, B. & Simpson, M. (2007). Ethical issues in online education. Open Learning, 22(2), 129-138.
Aspinall, R. (2013). International education policy in Japan in an age of globalisation and risk. Boston: Brill.