Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

University Student Ethics: The Differential Explanatory Effect of Locus of Control

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

University Student Ethics: The Differential Explanatory Effect of Locus of Control

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

With the ever *growing concern over business ethics, an increasing number of business programs require students to take an ethics course. However, researchers have found that ethics instruction alone does not control ethical orientation of students. Individual personal characteristics play a significant role in determining one's ethical decisions and actions. This study examines whether locus of control has discriminating power when the questionable actions are collaborative in nature. Additionally, the research tests whether locus of control has a differential moderating affect when the subjects are considering their own beliefs and actions and when they are considering the actions of others. The findings indicate that the locus of control variable has a significant influence on ethical behavior, even when the actions are collaborative. Moreover, the research shows that locus of control does not significantly influence student's perceptions regarding questionable behaviors of others.

INTRODUCTION

In response to the myriad corporate accounting and financial scandals, colleges and universities have shown a growing commitment to including ethics in the standard business curriculum. Ten years ago, ethics was typically offered as an elective course, if it was included in course offerings at all. Today the number of business programs requiring students to take an ethics course has grown exponentially, and many state societies of CPAs require all accounting students to have ethics instruction to sit for the CPA exam.

Unethical behavior doesn't suddenly arise after one has reached the level of corporate vice president or CEO. Indeed, evidence suggests that cheating may be rampant among students, both at the college and the high school levels. In one recent survey of college students, at least 50% reported cheating on various behaviors (McCabe et al., 2003) and another study indicated a 59% cheating rate (Rael, 2004).a Moreover, an unpublished survey of college freshmen in a small university in the east revealed that some felt cheating was covertly encouraged by their teachers to improve standardized test scores and improve school ratings. There is little doubt that the issue of ethics must be aggressively addressed.

In spite of all the attention given to ethics instruction, many questions about the effectiveness of teaching ethics in the classroom remain unanswered. The extent to which ethics instruction affects ethical orientation is often the object of scientific enquiry, and researchers have found that instruction alone doesn't determine one's ethics. Individual personal characteristics also impact ethical decisions and actions. Locus of control is one such individual characteristic and is the personality variable of interest in this study. Locus of control relates to whether one believes he/she is in control of his/her own destiny. This study examines whether locus of control is a moderating variable when the questionable actions are collaborative activities.

A second issue of interest in this research is whether locus of control has discriminating power when subjects are considering whether questionable actions occur in their environment. Some researchers have asked students how often they believe others engage in unethical behaviors and have used the results as a proxy for the students' own actions (need one or more citations here). However, if there is a difference in the explanatory effect of locus of control between subjects' own actions and their beliefs about the actions of others, researchers must be cautious about interpreting the results that ask about one's own beliefs and actions and the perceived actions of others. In such cases, assumptions drawn from studies using both types of surveys items may be called into question.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Research examining the ethical orientation of university students in the US has been reported in the literature for several decades. …

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