Finnish Teachers' Ethical Sensitivity

Article excerpt

Elina Kuusisto 1 and Kirsi Tirri 1 and Inkeri Rissanen 2

Recommended by Elizabeth Campbell

1, Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 9, 00014 Helsinki, Finland 2, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 33, 00014 Helsinki, Finland

Received 23 February 2012; Revised 12 June 2012; Accepted 14 June 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

The Finnish education system endeavors to support the development of the whole person rather than only the cognitive domain [1]. This challenges Finnish teacher education to educate teachers to see their role as holistic and with clear educational purposes [2]. Our education is research-based, with the requirement that students exhibit a sound knowledge of recent advances in teaching and learning. Most teachers in Finland are similarly educated and qualified. In principle, the requirement for teaching is a master's degree in a given field and both a theoretical and practical approach to teaching. This teachers' knowledge includes skills in ethical reflection on teaching as well as ethical competence in intercultural encounters.

In Finland, the professional ethical codes for teachers clarify the teachers' roles and relationships in their work [3]. The Finnish guidelines for teacher's professional ethics emphasize ethical sensitivity in the teacher-pupil relationship. The teacher is urged to strive to understand the learner's point of departure, thoughts and opinions and to handle his or her personal and private matters tactfully. The teacher is also expected to give special attention to learners who need particular care and protection and not to tolerate the exploitation or abuse of learners in any form. The code also acknowledges that the younger the learner with whom the teacher is working, the greater the teacher's responsibility for the learner becomes. This means that the teacher works together with the adults responsible for the child [3, 4]. We know from previous empirical research concerning Finnish teachers that they value professional commitment in terms of caring and cooperation in critical work situations [5, 6]. We also know that students benefit both socially and academically when they are supported by a caring classroom and school environment [7, 8].

Despite the high quality of the Finnish teacher education, in studies by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Finnish students assessed their school atmosphere and environment quite negatively. In the HBSC study 2001/02 comparing school satisfaction in 35 countries, Finland was situated in last place, with only 4.2% of the pupils reporting that they liked school very much [9]. The recent school shootings in Finland have also raised awareness of the issue of well being in schools.

It seems that in the Finnish educational system we have not acknowledged certain aspects of life and have assumed perhaps too easily that moral knowledge and reasoning lead to moral action [10, 11]. However, recent psychological research argues that the link between moral reasoning and moral behavior is weak [10]. Instead, tacit, implicit, and automatic cognitive processes govern human functioning, with unconscious processing being dominant and conscious processing being of secondary importance [12]. This applies also to morals, which function similarly as intuition. As a tool for moral education that pays attention to both reasoning and intuition, Narváez [13] created the integrative ethical education (IEE) model. It combines rational moral education, representing Kant's philosophy, and traditional character and intuition education, representing Aristotle's. The IEE model acknowledges the importance of Kant's universal ethical principles as a top-down approach. …