Friday, April 4, 2014

Developing Deeper Morality in Graduates of Institutions

Ethical considerations are important for maintaining business trust and stakeholder interest. Research by Dufresne & Offstein (2012) delves into the building of character at West Point and makes compelling arguments why many of the values can fit within colleges and business. The study delves into the nature of ethics and how it is seeded into more fundamental character development. Developing these morality systems can service graduates beyond the halls of their education and into the real world.

Major lapses in ethics have caused a decline in trust both on a societal level as well as within business and among investors. These lapses come from fundamental foundations of values and competing choices. Those who do not have strong foundations and ethical conscience often fail when personal and social pressures rise.

Each organization has its own core values that are unique to that institution. For example, at West Point a cadet following the code won’t lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. In some academic organizations student discipline is completed by engaging in a student judiciary process. The values and ethics of each institution may be different but often follow similar strains.

In higher education the goal is to develop moral reasoning. It is a process of developing personal standards from a perspective of specific communities and narrative understandings. According to Rest (1994), a model of morality includes behaving ethically through moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral courage. It is not enough to think without the ability to act.

Single loop learning is based upon reward and punishment. Double loop learning focuses more on the underlining assumptions of those rewards and punishments. Triple loop learning moves into an examination of culture, tradition, institutions, and systems that frame ones actions or behaviors. The third level requires a broader understanding of the world.

The second and third loops can only be found through the nurturing of character. Institutions often focus on rules and codes which can be beneficial. However, moral strength doesn’t always mean following all of the rules. Complex morality requires character in addition to the understanding of codes and rules. Institutions should consider their code of ethics as a starting point but should also try and help students deeply understand these concepts to create loops.

Dufresne, R. & Offstein, E. (2012). Holistic and international student character development process: learning from West Point. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(4).

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