Friday, 18 September 2015

Professional Conduct and Ethical Decision Making

Most professions have a clear and transparent set of agreed ethical principles that is agreed upon and adhered to by the members of that profession which guides their decision making.

For teachers in Scotland this can be found in key documents;
·         Code of Professionalism and Conduct (CoPAC)
o   Sets out the “key principles and values for registered teachers in Scotland” (p4) giving “a baseline professional standard”. CoPAC links teachers fitness-to-teach with public accountability and gives guidance on the behaviours, skills and dispositions expected of teachers.

·         Social Justice Social Justice Professional Values and Personal CommitmentTheme 1: Professional Values and Personal Commitment within

o   Standard for Registration
o   Standard for Career-long Professional Learning
o   Standard for Leadership and Management

Professional Conduct is a complex area as teachers have to examine their attitudes, beliefs and professional relationships. They have to consider their own belief system and how their attitudes and behaviours impact on their practice and also how they conduct themselves in a professional arena. Some teachers find they have a poor understanding of themselves, themselves as a teachers and the responsibility that is entailed within this role. Some fail to live up to the expectation of the profession and are challenged by the professional responsibility and personal integrity that must be evident in their practice. The restrictions on teachers in conduct, both in an educational environment but also in their own personal lives, may be an issue and teachers can find themselves being constrained or confronted by the obligations to model moral conduct that befits a person in a position of trust and respect. From personal experience, those who do not have the ‘required’ values or behaviours have to be respectfully challenged. This can lead to situations that are emotionally fraught as it can be very difficult to challenge a long held view or core trait that composes that person as an individual. However, if this is not challenged, are we really carrying out our professional duty of care to the individual?

Professional Conduct is rarely given space to be discussed throughout a teacher’s career, spanning ITE through to exiting the profession. However our ethical decision making and professional conduct underpins our relationships with student, colleagues, parents and partners, so is it not worth discussing? If we neglect our ethical decision making and professional conduct we become victims to interpretation where teachers become selective in the rights and responsibilities they enact in their classrooms. Opportunities to explore ethical decision making and professional conduct through time during in-service would support teachers to re-construct their professional identities. Teachers would be made uncomfortable and be challenged by some ethical dilemmas and therefore may choose not to engage.  Of greater importance however, is the responsibility for those delivering the in-service to also demonstrate professional conduct and a commitment to supporting teachers develop their own critical awareness of ethical decision-making.





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