Teaching with Integrity: The Ethics of Higher Education Practice

Teaching with Integrity: The Ethics of Higher Education Practice

Teaching with Integrity: The Ethics of Higher Education Practice

Teaching with Integrity: The Ethics of Higher Education Practice

Synopsis

This is a book about the ethics of teaching in the context of higher education. While many books focus on the broader socially ethical topics of widening participation and promoting equal opportunities, this unique book concentrates specifically on the lecturer's professional responsibilities. It covers the real-life, messy, everyday moral dilemmas that confront university teachers when dealing with students and colleagues - whether arising from facilitated discussion in the classroom, deciding whether it is fair to extend a deadline, investigating suspected plagiarism or dealing with complaints. Bruce Macfarlane analyses the prescriptive professional codes of practice employed by many universities, and promotes the active development of professional virtues over bureaucratic recommendations. The material is presented in a scholarly yet accessible style, and case examples are used throughout to encourage a practical, reflective approach. Teaching With Integrity bridges the pedagogic gap currently separating the debate about teaching and learning in higher education from the broader social and ethical environment in which it takes place.

Excerpt

In my judgement, in giving us this book, Bruce Macfarlane has performed a much-needed service. The central claim of this book, as I understand it, is that those who teach in higher education should reason explicitly about the value choices that they face in their working lives. It is accepted that intuitive choices are made all the time; what is less evident is those choices being made consciously and deliberately. If we wish to hold to the view that teaching in higher education is 'professional' in character, then we need - both individually and collectively - to be able to make the value basis of our actions explicit.

This is a bold set of claims, and for three reasons. Firstly, there are very few texts currently available that tackle this matter head-on. That, indeed, is a symptom of the difficulty that the book identifies. There has been a general reluctance among the academic community to address publicly and carefully the matter of the ethical basis of its actions. In going down this path, therefore, Macfarlane is breaking new ground, always a risky venture; but it is, surely, a highly worthwhile, if not downright necessary, venture.

Secondly, and following on, that there is a void in the literature on this matter is suggestive in its own right. There appears to be a reluctance to raise value issues, but why might that be? I am not sure that there is a clear answer to this question. It would be easy enough to reflect that the reluctance to pose value questions is characteristic of professional life in general. Value questions, of their nature, do not permit of straightforward answers. Even more, they are likely to generate dispute which may not yield to any definite resolution. 'Let sleeping dogs lie′ is the motive at work here. While I believe that to be true, that this reluctance explicitly to identify and to address value issues is characteristic of professional life, I do not believe it to be the whole story.

My view is that there are features of academic life that compound this general reluctance. First, there is perhaps an intuitive sense that precisely because value issues do not permit of any straightforward resolution - as

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