A study of the attitudes of adult education practitioners about codes of ethics

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McDonald, Kimberly S.
Wood, George S., 1930-
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of Educational Leadership
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The purpose of this study was to investigate adult educators' attitudes regarding the need for a code of ethics to guide their practice. Through the use of survey methodology, three major groups of adult education practitioners in Indiana responded to various questions about ethical dilemmas they had encountered, their personal experiences with codes of ethics, and their perceptions of the need for a code, as well as their ideas regarding the creation and implementation of a code of ethics for adult education.This study produced eight major findings regarding ethics and codes of ethics for adult educators:1). The majority of Indiana adult basic educators, American Society for Training and Development members within Indiana, and the Indiana Council for Continuing Education believe there should be a code of ethics for them as adult educators.2). The majority of practitioners do not cite situations encountered that have created ethical dilemmas for them.3). The two most frequently cited ethical dilemmas involve confidentiality concerns and ownership of instructional materials.4). The overwhelming majority of Indiana adult basic educators, American Society for Training and Development members in the state of Indiana and the Indiana Council on continuing Education members have had limited experience with codes of ethics.5). Even though there appears to be a lack of experience withcodes, the majority of practitioners feel positive about the functions of codes of ethics.6). Learner-centered issues are most frequently cited as issues a code for adult education should address.7). Across the total study population, the professional association is the favored organization to create and disseminate a code of ethics.8). It is not clear to adult educators whether a code of ethics should have a regulating function.Results of this study indicate that organizations associated with adult education should seriously consider codes of ethics. However, the results do not overwhelmingly indicate a code should be adopted. Many practitioners (28%) were not sure about the need for a code, largely because of problems associated with implementation and enforcement of a code. More emphasis on providing practitioners with training and education regarding ethics and more research conducted on ethics in adult education are suggested.