Date of Award

12-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Stephanie Welcomer

Second Committee Member

Kristina Passman Nielson

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey St. John

Abstract

Many college courses integrate the ethics topic into students’ disciplinary learning. Often, the first experience with the introduction of ethics within a college discipline course is that, after the brief class discussion, students are more confused than before about the meaning of ethics, how to make ethical decisions, what causes ethical dilemmas, etc. Offering an ethics-specific course would remedy this problem, as it would provide students an opportunity for an in-depth understanding of ethics. “Ethics education will help students acquire the knowledge and skills to make proper judgments,” Lau (2010) explains. “The emphasis is on building competences to help students identify, analyze, judge, and evaluate ethical matters” in the workplace and to apply ethics to real-life workplace decisions (p. 565). As we know from reading and hearing the news, the need for ethical leaders and organizations is very strong. A leadership course with a focus on ethics would provide students an in-depth understanding of ethics as it applies to leadership. In response to this need for ethics-specific education for leaders-in-training, I have developed an ethics course for leaders entitled, Practical Leadership and Organizational Ethics. This paper discusses the course in its entirety. Designed to be delivered via online technology at the upper-class undergraduate level for students from any discipline, the course is designed to, as it proceeds throughout a semester, encompass a variety of activities, topics, and perspectives which will prove to enhance and expand the students’ education and ethical training. Students attending this ethical leadership course will not only increase their knowledge base of ethics and leadership, they will also, with their enhanced critical thinking skills, incorporate ethics into their lives – and, ultimately, become an integral part of a new generation of ethical leaders. Why teach ethics more comprehensively to future professional leaders as they earn their degrees and train for their positions?, one might ask. Various reasons exist: 1. “A course in ethics allows students to examine what they believe and why” (Prager, 2002, p. 32), 2. “Ethics courses have a significant impact on students’ ethical sensitivity and reasoning skills” (Sims, 2002, p. 9), 3. “Moral behavior can be developed from a thorough understanding of ethical concepts and dilemmas and reinforced by awareness of ethical issues” (Sims, 2002, p. 10), 4. “Learning ethics is part of general education: the capability to go beyond mere opinion, prejudice and ‘gut reaction’ and support ethical positions with reasoning informed by ethical theory” (Brigley, 2006, p. 511), and 5. “The primary purpose of courses in ethics ought to be to provide students with those concepts and analytical skills that will enable them to grapple with broad ethical theory in attempting to resolve both personal and professional dilemmas, as well as to reflect on the moral issues facing the larger society” (The Hastings Center, 1980, p. 48). I give the ultimate reason: it’s the right thing to do.

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