A Framework for Professional Ethics Courses in Teacher Education

Published: 
Jun. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(3), 2011, p. 273–285.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This empirical research on professional ethics education gives us a starting point for rethinking professional ethics education for teachers.
It suggests that ethics courses for professionals can make a positive difference, particularly when it comes to improving moral reasoning.
In this article, the authors revisit the question of ethics education for teachers.

The authors propose an approach to the professional ethics of teaching that employs a case-analysis framework specifically tailored to address the practice of teaching.
The framework is designed to expose the prima facie moral considerations that are relevant as teachers make judgments about ethics.

A Framework for Case Analysis

The authors describe the steps of a case analysis, adapted specifically to teachers.
These steps can serve as a basis of class discussion surrounding educational dilemmas.
 

Step 1: Compile Information About the Case
The article argue that to unmask the relevant prima facie considerations, nearly all of the decision-making frameworks suggest that the person involved in making an ethical decision needs to be clear about the factual information.

Step 2: Consider the Various Participants
The literature suggests that the interests of all the participants and stakeholders must be fully considered.
The idea in this sort of “stakeholder analysis” is to achieve a perspectival understanding.

Step 3: Identify and Define the Ethical Problem
The decision maker must clearly understand the nature of the ethical dilemma.
In a true ethical problem, there are multiple and conflicting ethical principles at stake. The decision maker needs to determine what moral rules, standards, and values seem to be in conflict.

Step 4: Identify Some Options
The literature suggests taking a moment to identify possible options.
Often, it is quite easy to formulate two responses, either doing an action or not doing an action.
The key to resolving ethical dilemmas, we have found, involves identifying other possibilities beyond simply doing or not doing a particular action in question.

Step 5: Do a Theoretical Analysis of Your Options
The existing professional literature suggests that the moral dimensions of a problematic case can be further exposed through the use of multiple “moral technologies”: ethical theories, codes, and traditions (e.g., the “golden rule”) that help to expose the prima facie considerations that are involved and to analyze options for resolving the debate.
Of particular concern in the literature is the consequentialist strategy of paying close attention to all the possible consequences of proposed actions.
At this stage, it is important to ask not only about the possible consequences a particular option might have for all of the stakeholders involved but also the likelihood of those consequences actually occurring.

Step 6: Consider Your Role as a Teacher
Notice that ethical theories and principles are used to understand the nature of the ethical dilemma at hand rather than to finally resolve the dilemma.

Step 7: Educate Yourself as Time Permits
Time permitting, many commentators also recommend the seventh point, a period of research in which the person in the dilemma reads about the topic and discusses the problem with others.
At this point, a teacher may talk with experienced mentors, consult relevant scholarly commentary, or contact professional organizations for guidance.

Step 8: Make the Decision
Eighth, with all these prima facie considerations on the table, a decision maker must make a decision and try to construct reasons for why one option might be preferable to the others.
This is the point where the decision, although justified with reasons, is ultimately more of an act of moral perception than a rule-following procedure that can be explicitly taught.

Step 9: Decide How to Evaluate and Follow Up on Your Decision
Even when a decision is reached, the task is not yet complete.
Some of the literature suggests, ninth, that a case analysis must be forward looking. One must decide not only how to act in the case but also how to follow up after the decision has been made.
 

Applying the Framework

The authors describe a case study which comes from their personal experience and apply the eight stages of the framework on it.

They conclude that the framework for ethical decision making presented here provides a strategy for bringing conceptual coherence to professional ethics courses for teachers.

Updated: Jan. 07, 2014
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