An Ethical Decision Making Initiative
Faculty, staff and students at WPU worked diligently to create a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as required by the Southern Associates of Colleges and Schools.
The program we created, named CHOICES, spans the first year through the senior year and involves case study analysis, considering dilemmas in one’s profession, and interactions with leaders who have faced difficult ethical decisions.
- Student Learning OutcomesStudents’ ethical self-identity develops as they practice ethical decision making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues.
It requires individuals to assess their ethical values and the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, consider the ramifications of alternative actions, and justify their final decision.
In order for students to become more effective at ethical decision making they will need to acquire conceptual knowledge related to making ethical decisions, values associated with choosing ethical actions, and ethical decision making skills they can apply to complex ethical dilemmas. Thus, we have crafted three student learning outcomes.
1. Understand concepts that provide a common language for analyzing ethical situations including:
- Distinguish between ethical dilemmas and moral temptations
- Identify core values related to ethical decision making and define each
- Identify concepts such as ethics, morals, character, ethical principles, and ethical relativism
2. Adopt values consistent with ethical decision making.
3. Apply an ethical decision making process when confronted with ethical dilemmas.
- Ethical ConceptsThroughout the CHOICES program, student will learn about and discuss the following concepts:
- Ethical Principles
- Ethical Relativism
- Moral Temptations
- Ethical Dilemmas
These final two concepts provide a challenge for students in which first understanding the difference in each type of situation is critical. For example, Is turning a friend into a professor an ethical dilemma or a moral temptation?
- CHOICES Core ValuesResearch revealed six values that are closely related to making good ethical decisions. We have adopted those values as a key part of the CHOICES program:
- Eight Questions Model for Ethical Decision Making
- Purpose and Question?
- Points of View?
- Principles (and Values)?
- Options and Consequences?
- Case StudiesA primary pedagogy used in teaching ethical decision making skills in the CHOICES program is through use of case studies. Some case studies are very short ethical issues at we call CHOICES Situation. We use these to help students learn the tenets of CHOICES. Examples of CHOICES Situation are:
- You discover your brother is selling classified information to a foreign power. Do you turn him in?
- You are applying for a job that requires experience you don’t have. Do you claim that you do?
- The only available spot in the parking lot is reserved for the handicapped. You are in a hurry and wont be very long. Do you park there?
- You work at a bank. Another employee is blamed for your error involving thousands of dollars. It cannot be traced. Do you own up?
- In order to marry someone you love, you must change your religion. Do you do it?
Once students are able to identify values, determine if the situation is an ethical dilemma or moral temptation and understand the 8 questions model, we introduce more developed case study and ask students to approach them with a critical eye. Case studies are then used in many other courses where students take real life scenarios and look at them through an ethical lens where we hope they developed critically examined decisions.. Each year we have a CHOICES Case Study Competition at our annual Student Showcase. It is open up to all student to compete before an audience and panel of judges.