Ethics in Teaching

This morning I gave a guest lesson in an “Ethics and Professional Issues” seminar for clinical graduate students. Although I encounter ethical issues in teaching routinely, preparing for this guest lesson gave me a chance to deliberately examine all the activities involved in teaching using the lens of ethics. My thinking was greatly informed by the edited volume called Teaching Ethically that came out last year, which also prompted me to examine the APA code of ethics.

I came up with a list of domains in teaching where ethical issues pop up. You might be surprised by some of these, but not by others. Do you have anything to add?

  • Competency
    • Content knowledge (what to teach)
    • Pedagogical knowledge (how best to teach it; evidence-based assessment)
    • Adequate preparation (class, course)
    • Classroom management (e.g., strategies for dealing with sensitive issues like mental illness, gender differences, ugly history of IQ scores)
    • Self-assess “boundaries of competence” and don’t work beyond them (if must, obtain training)
    • Professional development
    • Seeking advice from and collaborating with colleagues to improve learning
    • Continual improvement (self, course, program, degree)
    • Scholarly teaching/SoTL: using new method without adequate research or preparation
  • Fairness
    • Diversity and inclusivity (access to materials including cost of the textbook, self-disclosure in class activities)
    • Assigning a textbook you don’t use (much)
    • Discourage and pursue cases of plagiarism, cheating
    • Textbook cost
    • Grading and evaluation is clear, competently done, consistent
    • Doing the SoTL work including withholding treatment to one group
    • Accommodations for special circumstances: extra grade chances, re-grades, make up a missed exam
    • Accurately describe your course, set up appropriate expectations (e.g., grades)
  • Faculty-student relationships
    • Trust and power
    • Authorship with graduate and undergraduate student collaborators
    • Writing reference letters for students you know have slim chances of getting in somewhere or who you don’t know that well (and not writing letters when you can)
    • Avoiding multiple (conflicting) roles: research supervisor, employer, teacher, mentor, evaluator, researcher (SoTL), TA/teaching supervisor
    • Consider the impact of challenging students’ core beliefs (e.g., God, evolution, trust in authority, gay rights…)
    • Social media: Facebook friends, Twitter following à blurring edge of professional relationship
    • Assigning a textbook when you’re and author and will receive royalties
    • Accepting gifts from students (and textbook publishers, for that matter)
  • Confidentiality
    • Grades files shared over email (security)
    • Sending grades over email to students using non-UBC email addresses
    • Storage and confidential shredding of paper material
    • Non-disclosure to parents
  • Law
    • Understanding copyright laws (including digital copyright)
    • Complying with copyright laws

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