Over the years professionalism has been used to describe the stature of health workers and those involved in business issues. What has remained unclear is how people develop into professionals. Debate has been raging and continues to rage on how people develop into professionals. This paper takes a close look at literature to establish the prevailing perceptions of lecturers and students on the teaching of ethics education.
The paper is in four sections, it starts by conceptualizing and giving an overview of ethics and ethics education. It then goes on to analyze concept papers that have been published or presented at conferences on the teaching of ethics in universities. The analysis takes the reader through some theoretical considerations of ethics education. Here the idea is to look at how ethics education improves the knowledge and performance levels of the graduate.
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The Northern Illinois University defines ethics as : “— a body of principles or standards of human conduct that govern he behavior of individuals and groups. Ethics arise not simply from [humans] creation but from human nature itself making it a natural body of laws from which [humans] laws follow’. Ethics therefore is generally defined as ‘doing something right’. What is interesting about ethics is the question of who decides on what is right and what is wrong. This question is further complicated by the dynamic nature of the social environment.
What maybe considered right today may not be considered right tomorrow? Further to that what maybe right in one community may not be right in another community? To add to the complexity of ethics, some situations raise a lot of conflict that decision making becomes difficult. An observation by Sims and Belton (2005) was that the definitions of ethics were so abstract and theoretical that students failed to “see” the relevance of the course. They further argue that students could feel morally deprived if university lecturers started teaching on what is wrong and what is right.
However in the end the two authors agree that ethics education is relevant and lecturers should ensure that the methods they use to teach the course make the students see he relevance of the material. A challenge that university lecturers face is that of the actual content that has to be included in an ethics education curriculum or what objectives to achieve when teaching the course. The University of Puerco Rice stipulates what the students characteristics should be after completing an ethics education program.
They claim at this university that after the ethics module students will be aware of the ethical implications of their work. The graduates will appreciate the ethical standards in their professions. The students should be able to make sound ethical decisions. Lastly they will be encouraged to put their knowledge of ethics into action. The objectives mentioned above need to be clarified otherwise it will be difficult to determine the content to cover. Despite this concern ethics education can be taught. It is important to consider teaching ethics because it contributes towards the professional growth of the individual.
It prepares the graduate for the life at work. East Carolina University Body School of Medicine argues that ‘professionalism fosters respect and trust among students, faculty and staff and includes willing compliance with the highest ethical standards. They portray the relationship between knowledge, skills and the professional attributes in the diagram shown below. The diagram above is adapted from the East Carolina University Body School of Medicine website: http://www. Ice. Du/CSS-dish/indemnification/ oversimplification. CFML visited on 6 March 2012.
The diagram shows what the school believes to be the traits of a professional. The same traits were used by the school to establish a professional development program for medical students. A close look at the diagram shows that apart from the concern and care for patients the est. of the attributes are desirable in any professionals character and performance abilities. While knowledge and skills are fundamental to the character of a professional, the issue of ethics is also crucial as ethics are important for integrity and trustworthiness.
Compassion and respect for others are also important attributes that are developed through good grounding in ethical education. In Zanzibar not many universities include professional training [education in their programs. It is assumed the knowledge and skills developed in each area of specialization will mean that the graduates will catch the professional skills through ranger. However there is no evidence to prove that ethical skills will be developed in graduates through the silent transfer.
According to the Medical Teacher (2012) professionalism is contextual, that is it is dependent on what people perceive to be professional at a particular time and particular place. This implies that any form of professional training must also address issues of adaptability. The dynamism of professionalism has given some academics room to argue that professionalism cannot be taught. However strong calls from the medical field for the teaching of revisionism’s requires us from the social sciences to consider introducing some form of professional teaching in the curricular that we service.
How then can curricular be modified to include training for professionalism? A look at the above diagram on professionalism points to a leeway of improving the professional outlook of our graduates. The answer to the above question could lie in the teaching of ethics in higher education. While academics will stand their ground against expanding an already overloaded university curricular, there is need to put the plight of the radiate who will have to cope with making ethical decisions through out life into perspective.
The curricular studied by our students is composed of courses that are intended to equip them with knowledge and skills related to specific areas of specialization. The curricular do not address the students’ life after university. The assumption here could be that issues of ethics are not learnt but caught from everyday experiences. While this may be plausible, it is imperative to note that for the ethics to be ‘caught’ they have to be present somewhere. The student should experience correct ethical behavior from someone.
The question to ask and answer is who should be the source of the good ethics? The other issue to consider is how the student will select the good ethics to catch and the undesirable ethics to let go? The student is exposed to different role models in the university. The major influence comes from the lecturing staff. The peers also have a significant influence on what the student ‘catches’. The students’ homes also affect greatly the ethical behavior of the student. What becomes apparent is that the ethical development of the student is left to chance.
There is no deliberate contribution on the molding f the professional behavior of our graduate. The current crop of lecturers in universities in Zanzibar is composed of very young people. Most of them are fresh from university and they may not be the best role models. In most instances the lecturers themselves need thorough grooming in the ethics of teaching at university. The situation then demands that something has to be done to ensure that the university curricular includes some professional training for the students to prepare them for the world of work.
Walk et al (2010) carried out a study to establish constraints or obstacles that impinged on the integration of ethics education into the curricular of engineering students. Their findings are interesting and could help in the development and implementation of an ethics education inclusive curricular. The first conclusion they made was that the university curricular was already loaded and could not take any more courses. This conclusion is made on the assumption that the curricular followed by the university students is cast in stone. It cannot be changed.
This assumption becomes questionable, the courses offered in any program can be reviewed and courses removed or added. The lecturers who made this claim may have forgotten that ethics education is a life skill rather than some narrow technical field. A good example is when a university produces dishonest accountants who end up abusing company funds. I think such a university should consider seriously the idea of including ethics education in the curriculum. The second conclusion they made was that faculty were not trained to teach ethics and therefore they were not able to do that.
A plausible reason if we are looking at secondary school teachers, but not so plausible when considering university lecturers. Ethics education falls in the social sciences category and the type of lecturers in this field may not be worth their salt if they consider themselves not qualified to teach ethics education. One may understand the engineering lecturers professing ignorance about the ethics but definitely they are not alone in the university and they could engage the social science people to come to their rescue.
The lecturers also felt that ethics education would impinge on students moral and religious freedoms. One wants to overlook this reason as an issue of detail. That is the details of the course content to be covered. Who ever is mandated to design an ethics education course should keep this point in mind so as to avoid conflict of interest within the moral and religious areas. The lecturers also felt that there were no incentives for the teaching of ethics education. While the reason came from the lecturers, one wants to take this is an administrative issue.
The university administration is the one charged with the responsibility of remuneration for the lecturers. Unless the lecturers saw the teaching of ethics as extra work for them then it was acceptable. If the teaching was going to be done by Taft recruited for that purpose then the issue of remuneration would not count. I think the lecturers were of the opinion that they were being asked to teach ethics education outside their teaching loads and this would be definitely unfair. The issue on policies on dishonesty is difficult to place here.
However the lecturers may have taken the issue of integrity in the university as a core area for ethics education. However some interesting points are raised about students’ behavior in academic work. The lecturers were not sure what students were allowed or not allowed during assignments or home-works. The lecturers were not sure whether collaboration was an act of misconduct. The analysis of viewpoints above leads the paper to suggest the way forward in ethical development. Wallace et al suggest a model for teaching ethics.
The model could be used to develop a way of teaching ethics education in higher education. The model is diagrammatically given below: Student experiences Co-curricular Experiences Formal curricular experiences Ethical Development Institutional culture Ethical Behavior Ethical Reasoning Knowledge of Ethics This model goes against the earlier mentioned notion that ethics can be caught. There are three distinct areas of ethics given: Knowledge of ethics is fundamental, this meaner that students should have the theoretical knowledge about the subject. They should be aware that this field of knowledge exists.
The knowledge of ethics helps the student to develop ethical reasoning abilities. This includes ability to identify ethical problems and use ethical knowledge to come up with ethical solutions to the problems. Ethical reasoning also includes moral consciousness. The ethical reasoning skills eventually enable the graduate to behave ethically at all times. The above paragraph describes the type of graduate that the society prefers. The diagram shows that the three categories of ethical knowledge, ethical reasoning and ethical behavior are a result of ethical development.
The curriculum which results in ethical development is made up of Formal curricular experiences I. E. Those experiences coming from the teaching/learning situation. They include the deliberately designed ethics education course, faculty role models as well as subject content that has ethical considerations. Some universities have already introduced ethics across the curriculum programs (Loyola Martyrdom University) while others Utah State University) offer ethics as a stand alone course.
Co-curricular experiences include those experiences that are close to the teaching learning situation but are outside the teaching/learning domain. These include peer and parent pressures. They also include lessons learnt in sport and other related activities. These play a major role in how the students develop ethically. Peers play a major role in that they influence an individual’s perceptions of life. What the peers consider to be good becomes good for the individual as well.
Czarina Aztar and Shams Aziza’ (2011) aired out a study to determine effects of peer and parent pressure on university students and established that peer and parent pressure are strong factors in the total personality of a student and these greatly impinge on the academic achievement of the student. Students’ experiences are a major contributor to ethical development. The experiences span the total experiences that the student has had over the years from birth to the time he/she enrolls at university. These experiences are cognitively processed by the student to provide the base from which ethical decisions are made.