origin of the word “ethics” is derived from the Greek word “ethos,” which means
“character” or “conduct.” Despite this, ethics is not limited to the actions or
behaviours of an individual, as it also includes practices of a profession, an
organization, a government agency, or a corporation. Historically, opinions
from philosophers and moral ethicists on the topic of ethics in relation to the
individual and society have fallen into two camps. While one group places the
individual as more important, the other considers the society itself as more
important than the individual. Part of this argument is brought to life
on-screen by Spock in the acclaimed film Star
Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where the aforementioned character states that
“…were I to invoke logic, logic clearly dictates the needs of the many outweigh
the needs of the few” (Meyer 1982). This now-infamous quote brought the concept
of society taking priority over the individual into the cultural zeitgeist
thirty-five years ago, and it is something that has remained there to this day.
It implies that no one person can take priority over a group, a group which may
include their peers. This is a central ideal when it comes to creating an
ethical classroom, as the “conduct” of a “character” cannot be allowed to
negatively impact, in this scenario, the education of a group of
to research carried out by Corley and Mathur for Arizona State University, many
of the concerns which are confronting teacher in public schools, both in the
United States and around the globe, require ethical decision making (2014).
Corley and Mathur go on to state that teachers may experience tensions between
personal beliefs, professional codes of conduct, and moral values when facing
ethical issues. Robert Bullough, in a review which analysed twenty-two articles
from Teaching and Teacher Education,
found that teachers understood and responded to ethical dilemmas differently,
and also showed different levels of ethical sensitivity (2011). While some of these
teachers made certain ethical determinations about what was the right thing to
do based on their own personal ethics and life experiences, others gave
priority to social and institutional norms, while a third subset held a more workable
and thoughtful view which attended to a wide range of moral privileges
(Bullough 2011). What is made clear by all of this is the fact that while not
everyone adheres to the same ethical code, it is essential that teachers in a
classroom setting are provided with the necessary tools to support their
consideration of multiple perspectives surrounding an issue, and that they also
attain a capacity for ethical decision making in order to create and maintain
an ethical classroom.
its heart, an ethical classroom, not unlike a good home, is ideally a place of
learning, sharing, trust, nurturing, personal and spiritual growth, and peace.
This is a sentiment put forward by Rosanna Pittella and Philip Rotstein (2017)
when they state that places which give rise to such feelings among those who
thrive there are built around a consciousness and respect of ethical concepts.
They go on to claim that goodness, truth, a sense of self, fairness, and the
responsibility to do no harm are the supporting beams of any teacher’s ethical
classroom, and that intentional teachers are those who chose their careers
based on the need to make a positive difference. For teachers such as these the
ethical classroom is the ‘ultimate incubator of learning by their students and
serves as the litmus test of their skills, experience, and creativity. This
supports the work of Gail Furman who, in her work The Ethic of Community (2004), made the claim that there are five
frameworks of ethics which have been identified in education; these are the
ethic of care, justice, critique, profession, and community, with all five of
these being of particular interest to those seeking to create an ethical
Virginia Held (2006) tackles the the ethic of care put forward by Furman in her
research and claims that it is based on the tenet that people are relational,
interdependent beings. She states that as infants, humans begin life thoroughly
dependent upon the care of others for survival, as human babies do not emerge
independent and self-sufficient like some animals do. The ethic of care rejects
the idea that the goal of healthy child development is to become independent,
and instead the advocates of the ethic of care view people as both relational
and capable of autonomy throughout their lifespan. Within this ethical framework,
teachers meet individual student needs, and also develop positive relationships
that show nurturing and care for students (Corley and Mathur 2014). Secondly, the
ethic of justice is one of the most recognisable within the school system, as
it includes both an individual’s choice to act justly and the school
community’s choice to act or govern justly. As per Sullivan (1986), the ethic
of justice provides a framework for people to solve problems by first
establishing what is just and fair for the individual and for the school
community. Teachers operating within this ethical framework must respect
individual students and deal with them with fairness, following due process to
protect civil and human rights (Corley and Mathur 2014). Thirdly, the ethic of
critique is entirely concerned with questioning everything and asking why are
things the way they are. To embrace the ethic of critique requires a
willingness to reflect upon social justice, upon issues of access, inclusion,
and also distribution of resources (Giroux 2003). While the ethic of critique
illuminates flaws, so too does it illuminate its own as it typically does not
include offering any solutions. The teacher’s role within this framework is to
engage in the questioning of the status quo and also demonstrate sensitivity to
these first three ethical models of care, justice, and critique, Shapiro and
Stefkovich (2001) use the best interest of the child as their touchstone to
create the fourth ethical paradigm mentioned by Furman, which is that of
profession. The ethic of profession focuses on moral aspects and questions
which are specific to schools and, within this model, educators are expected to
consider their professional principles, codes, and standards, to position the
best interests of the student. Here the teacher uses professional code of
ethics and keeps the student at the centre of decisions (Corley and Mathur
2014). Furman (2004) then, noticing the absence of the discussion of the
community in the ethics literature focusing on educational leadership, built a
new, fifth framework with the ethic of community at its heart. This final
framework incorporated not only the most widely accepted ethics paradigms of
care, justice, and critique, but also the work of Shapiro and Stefkovich in the
form of the ethic of profession. Within the ethic of community the teachers
must concern themselves with community issues, such as student achievement and
success for all (Corley and Mathur 2014). These five frameworks provide
multiple ethical lenses through which educators can view the issues they
encounter, and also understand different perspectives and take more thoughtful
the role of educators extends beyond just these five ethical frameworks, according
to the Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Conduct (2012). This document
clearly states that the role of the teacher is to educate, however there are
also four ethical values which underpin the standards of teaching, knowledge,
skill, competence, and conduct as outlined in the Code. The first of these
ethical values is Care, which does share overlap with the research done by
Corley and Mathur, and the Teaching Council states that a teacher’s practice is
motivated by the best interests of the students entrusted to their care.
Teachers are to show this through positive influence, professional judgement,
and empathy in practice. This is where the overlap ends, as the remaining three
ethical values outlined by the Teaching Council are that of Respect, Integrity,
and Trust. In order for a teacher to show respect in an ethical manner they
must uphold human dignity and promote equality, as well as emotional and
cognitive development. They must also show respect for different spiritual and
cultural values, diversity, social justice, freedom, democracy, and the
environment. In order for a teacher to have ethical integrity they must show
honesty, reliability, and act in a moral fashion, as well as exercise integrity
through their professional commitments and responsibilities. Finally, to
maintain the ethical value of trust teachers must be the embodiment of
fairness, openness, and honesty when interacting with pupils, colleagues,
parents, school management, and even the public.
these five ethical frameworks as laid out by Furman (2004) and the four core
ethical values as laid out by the Teaching Council (2012) are implemented in
tandem, any learning environment can be made decidedly more ethical. This ties
back to what was said by Pittella and Rothstein when they claimed that an
ethical classroom is ideally a place of learning, sharing, trust, nurturing,
personal and spiritual growth, and peace. This is then further elaborated on
when they state that certain characteristics of an ethical classroom will form
a scaffold for students to climb toward “enriched learning, cooperation,
thoughtfulness, self-awareness, and partnership” (2017). One of these
characteristics is the learning which occurs in a classroom environment being
presented in ethical language. Every subject taught within an ethical classroom
can be enriched when it is presented with an awareness and exploration of its
ethical qualities and applications. An example given by Pittella and Rothstein
(2017) is that of a discussion facilitated by the teacher helping students to
identify when and where ethical concepts can be found within the reading
material. Pittella and Rothstein (2017) state that in this ethical classroom,
students will come away with stimulation of the mind, practical skills, and the
knowledge of ethical language and ideas that will transcend their lives which
would not have happened otherwise.
the aforementioned scaffold which should be created for students is not just
concerned with subject matter being presented in an ethical manner, but also
with the lesson itself being conducted in an ethical manner. Education is more
than imparting knowledge of subject matter as it also influences, among other
things, the development of ethical decision making (Corley & Mathur 2014).
The adults in schools play powerful roles in the development of a child and
these adults, be they teachers or other administrative staff, are the guides
who can lead students beyond their current juvenile state of understanding and
mastery to the next, decidedly more advanced, level (Vygotsky 1990). It is
therefore crucial for the adults in schools to model ethical practices and to
help students construct a moral compass which is guided by fairness, honesty,
integrity, civility, compassion, constancy, and responsibility (Campbell 2008).
classroom has its own standard operating procedures which have been created by
either the teacher or the school, or a combination of the two. These are often
directives which forbid certain actions such as “No pushing” or “No talking,”
however this should not be the case in the ethical classroom. A different way
to approach ethical codes of conduct as advised by Pittella and Rothstein
(2017) is to form an agreement with the students which describes a certain
standard of behaviour which is expected to be met by all. The example given is
to translate “No pushing” in the hypothetical agreement to “We do not touch one
another without permission, and never in a way that could cause harm.” These
guidelines to be upheld in the daily interactions of an ethical classroom can
comprise a life lesson that will be carried by the students well beyond its
walls. This is necessary because in the ethical classroom the educator should
teach beyond rules, to the underlying reasons why certain behaviours are
necessary for the greater good of all.
previous remark harks back to the opening quote of this speech “…were I to
invoke logic, logic clearly dictates the needs of the many outweigh the needs
of the few”, as it relates to the need for the behaviour of any one student
within the classroom to not impact on the education of their peers.
Additionally, as has been made clear, the behaviour of the teacher is just as,
if not more, important than the students’ when it comes to ensuring that their
education is both conducted and delivered in an ethical manner. In order for an
ethical classroom environment to be created, not only do the educators
themselves need to conduct themselves in an ethical fashion, but they must also
instil in their students the capacity to question, learn, and behave in a way
which is also inherently ethical.
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(2003). The abandoned generation:
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