Dianne Newman and Robert Brown (1996) have inspected myths related to ethics. Let’s delve straight into the topic by checking out these myths.
- Personal ethical perfection precedes serious ethical thinking
But that’s simply impossible, so one shouldn’t expect to become ethically perfect ever
- Ethics is just valuing one’s values and all values are equal
Some values are better and more universal than others
- When crossing with conflicts, direct guidelines are found in professional ethics
Professional ethics doesn’t present answers to every dilemma
- Ethical ponderings belong to committees, authorities and so forth
Nope, anyone can and should chip in
- Some are just more ethical than others
Anyone can learn to be ethical, it’s not a skill you’re just ‘born with’
- Large problems are most important due to the fact they bring up ethical discussions into limelight
But large problems start from smaller ones, so in order to be anticipatory one should stay alert and be willing to intervene in ethical misconducts — whatever the magnitude
- Ethical evaluation means that people are first and foremost evaluated
Not necessarily, since also programs or any material component could be evaluated (people are now and then sensitive when it comes to evaluation, so it’s important to let them know about the procedure)
- There’s no time for ethical pondering
Sometimes it’s merely an excuse for walking away from responsibilities
- Ethical vs. practical
Ethics is somehow pitted against of being practical, while in reality both may exist at the same time and ethics should be seen as important for evolution’s sake
Newman and Brown (1996) have presented a helpful principle for evaluation: Evaluate as you’d like to be evaluated yourself. Let’s check out more of their principles for evaluation.
- Autonomy. Normally autonomy is seen as a negative right, right? 😉
But autonomy can also be seen as positive, right for something. In a way, autonomy of pupils is greatly damaged in school evaluation: They usually don’t have say are they evaluated or not. Yet, by developing self-assesment, we can offer a path for pupils to have an impact on how they are evaluated
(more about this in future posts).
- Avoiding harm. Teacher, especially in a school environment, has a lot of pedagogical power. Thus, teachers should avoid unneccessary side-effects of evaluation by weighing which evaluation methods maximize positive impacts.
And one should keep in mind that pupils’ mental harm, stress wouldn’t rise too high as a result of evaluation(s).
- Doing good. Evaluation might feel cruel and repressive use of power. Especially since pupils are only just developing their self-esteem. Some pupils have the notion that a well-performing student equals a ‘good’ person. And through evaluation teachers might label someone as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. That’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
- Fairness. Equal, non-favoring and multiple angles incorporating evaluation is the key.
- Loyalty. Teacher should be trustworthy and accountable, that’s a given. But one might question loyalty when considering expectations of a pupil, parents, community, country etc. Where should teacher’s loyalty first and foremost lay?
Evaluation is an extremely important aspect of teaching. That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate next few posts to the theme. Let’s start with important values in evaluation according to Race, Brown and Smith (2005). Evaluation should be:
- Ethically fair and just. While learning experiences among pupils aren’t similar, in principle each pupil should have the same opportunities to excel. A teacher ought to make use of various evaluation methods so that no group in particular would be favored and that everyone could find a way to prove their skills.
For instance using oral exams, portfolios etc. not only written exams.
- Valid and reliable. In this case valid means that teachers evaluate only what they really wish to evaluate. If we are evaluating problem-solving skills we shouldn’t focus on clerical errors.
Relibiality means the ability to avoid chance. A pupil’s exam results can’t rest on how tired teacher was when checking the exams (easier said than done 🙂 ).
- Transparent. Pupils should be aware of evaluation methods and those methods must be in line with the curriculum. No guessing is needed when the criteria is clear, and that means less stress for the pupils as well.
- Motivate to learn more. Pupils shouldn’t be encouraged to memorize everything just exam purposes. Rather, to plan their learning ahead. Jointly with teacher, if possible.
- Demanding and enable excellence. Finding the balance where pupils are expected not too little and not too much is tricky. A teacher should generate a great empathy level and understanding about the character and skills of each pupil. In any case pupils are so individual that differentiated learning is a good goal (naturally depends on resources).
Since early 2017 we have had a teacher’s oath called ‘Comenius’ Oath’ in Finland. Among the first to take the oath was actually Hanan al Hroub, who was awarded with Global Teacher Prize in 2016. Comenius’ Oath is named after Education Philosopher Johan Comenius who lived in the 17th century in Europe. Similarly than medical doctors’ Hippocratic Oath, this oath in question gives ethical guidelines on how to act in teacher’s profession. By no means is it mandatory to take nor is it a requirement in teacher’s work. Everyone is free to choose.
But let’s check out the oath:
‘As a teacher I am engaged in educating the next generation, which is one of the most important human tasks. My aim in this will be to renew and pass on the existing reserve of human knowledge, culture and skills.
I undertake to act with justice and fairness in all that I do and to promote the development of my pupils and students, so that each individual may grow up as a complete human being in accordance with his or her aptitudes and talents.
I will also strive to assist parents, guardians and others responsible for working with children and young people in their educational functions.
I will not reveal information that is communicated to me confidentially, and I will respect the privacy of children and young people. I will also protect their physical and psychological inviolability. I will endeavour to shield the children and young people in my care from political and economic exploitation and defend the rights of every individual to develop his or her own religious and political convictions.
I will make continuous efforts to maintain and develop my professional skills, committing myself to the common goals of my profession and to the support of my colleagues in their work. I will act in the best interests of the community at large and strive to strengthen the esteem in which the teaching profession is held.’
What do you think about the oath?