Professional Ethics in School

Updated: Nov 7, 2016

Hashtag: #GabaritandoEtica (A Lecture on Professional Ethics)

The Effect of Teacher’s Unethical Practices

Unethical issues in the teaching profession are commonly expressed in moral deviations such as taking bribes from students, sexual exploitation, pressuring students to buy books, and others. Therefore, teaching professionals that are manipulative of their colleagues, superficial in their teaching approach, selfish, speculative, showing signs of corruption are unethical teachers.

Teachers are a model of moral and pro-social behaviors thus their attitude can greatly affect students sense of justice and perception of moral code. For instance, an honest feedback that can help a student improve their performance is more ethical than punishing a student with a grade of “C”.

Ethical teachers are typically caring and often encourage students to study harder when they performed poorly; they make students accountable, honest and only give grades that students deserve. These ethical practices according to study teach students to strive for excellence and consistently do their best in class.


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Ethical teachers are capable of making ethical decisions, particularly when it involves the use of power against students. For example, a male teacher one morning realized that the money on his desk was missing. He immediately suspected two students (Sam and Milby) simply because they had stolen money in the past. The teacher talked to Sam first and told him that he knew Sam had taken the money because Milby told him he had. Sam denied the allegation and insisted that he had not taken anything. The teacher told the same thing to Milby but the student insisted that he had not taken the money. The teacher then talked to both students and told them they were thieves and should admit their crime.

The teacher later in the afternoon found the money under the pile of books but he did not apologize to Sam and Milby. The teacher in this scenario made accusations without evidence, lied and destroyed Sam and Milby’s friendship, refused to admit his error, and failed to apologize to those harmed by his false allegations. These unethical practices are detrimental to students’ perception of acceptable moral code and professional ethics in the future.

Developing Students Professional Ethics

Teachers’ actions have moral potency in relation to students. A teacher, therefore, should foster ethical professionalism and reflect on the moral impact of their actions, decisions, and overall attitudes towards students.

Older students are typically more experienced. However, in terms of professional development, they need their teacher’s support to become autonomous, critical and ethically responsible professional. For instance, discussions on issues about informed consent, confidentiality, debriefing, and protecting the interest of research participants are common in undergraduate and graduate psychology, counseling, and social work classes.

Teachers should help students develop ethical motivation skills such as the ability to act responsibly, understand social structures, and build a self-concept of an ethical person. Moreover, they should learn the importance of adhering to the personal, professional, and societal code of ethics including the consequences of violating them.

A moral and pro-social behavioral model, teachers are expected to demonstrate unquestionable professional ethics in class. Teaching is a profession with two additional ethical responsibilities – point out ethical issues and serve as a model of the professional character. Moreover, the result of a recent study suggests that professional conduct is learned mainly by example. In other words, future professional ethics of students are reflections of their teacher’s moral and pro-social behavior. These can be good values such as an emphasis on the interest of students more than individuality and selfishness, teaching that recognized diversity, honesty, sense of justice, self-esteem, consideration, commitment, and emotional control.

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