Perceptions of graduates of four doctoral programs in adult education concerning ethical decision making
The professional literature contains little or no documentation of university curriculum in adult education that deals with ethical practice. Nor is there evidence indicating what graduate students learn about ethics in their professional studies.Purposes of this study were to identify: (a) the extent to which university graduates, at the doctoral level, in adult education were aware of ethical dilemmas in their practice; (b) how practitioners determined ethical behavior; (c) the influence of graduate studies on determining ethical situations; (d) self perceptions of preparedness to face ethical dilemmas; and (e) the extent to which adult educators rely on codes of ethics.The study sought to answer the following questions: (a) Are adult education practitioners aware of ethical dilemmas in their practice? (b) How often do they encounter ethical dilemmas in their practice? (c) Do they have a way to determine ethical behavior in their practice? (d) How do they describe the impact of their graduate work on their ability to make ethical decisions? (e) How do they perceive their preparedness to face ethical dilemmas? (f) Do they consider codes of ethics when making decisions?Findings include: (a) over 90% of the respondents indicated they are aware of ethical dilemmas/situations in their work; (b) while all respondents indicated that they faced ethical dilemmas in areas such as program planning, marketing of programs, evaluation of programs, and in the teaching of adults approximately two thirds said they encountered them infrequently; (c) virtually all respondents indicated they had determined what ethical behavior was in their practice and cited personal values and religious beliefs as the two primary sources of information; (d) 83.3% of participants described graduate work as a significant factor in their ability to make ethical decisions; (e) s significant majority (89.0%) of participants indicated they were very well or well prepared to face ethical dilemmas; and (f) less than half indicated they used a code of ethics in their decision making process.Conclusions from the study include: (a) ethical dilemmas are perceived to be pervasive in the practice of adult education, (b) a person's own value system and religious beliefs were the most influential on impacting the way participants approached ethical dilemmas, (c) although professional knowledge obtained in graduate school was deemed influential, it was not deemed more important than one's personal values and beliefs.Recommendations include: (a) further study is needed to probe the specific elements raised on evaluation of students as an area of ethical concern, (b) further study could reveal why practitioners differ with regard to the frequency of encountering dilemmas, (c) if a deeper understanding of the value of graduate school is to be achieved more study is necessary, (d) a clearer understanding of the value of codes of ethics is needed.