Academic journal article College Student Journal

Virtue and Moral Development, Changing Ethics Instruction in Business School Education

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Virtue and Moral Development, Changing Ethics Instruction in Business School Education

Article excerpt

Focus on business ethics has increased however, incidents of academic dishonesty among business school students has also increased at the same time. Simply adding ethics courses to business programs appears to offer little guidance for student action, action that is transferred from the university to the business world. More is needed if we wish to reduce academic dishonesty while increasing the character of our students. Two hundred and four participants from a private, mid-western university were asked to classify 22 acts as influencing or deterring their decision to engage in academic dishonesty. These acts were coded according to Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development and were organized along structural/contextual dimensions. Findings indicated that students operate at lower levels of moral development than Kohlberg has previously found and they respond to structural dimensions such as rules, policies and punishments when considering academic dishonesty while the lack of these dimensions facilitates academic dishonesty. The role of virtue ethics education as a moderator to this relationship was proposed.

Key Words: Academic Dishonesty, Ethics Education, Moral Development, Virtue Ethics


Business ethics has grown as a discipline in business schools since the 1980's and is now a part of most business school programs, being a required course of study for many undergraduate and graduate school students. It is also noted that some of the largest business scandals in history have occurred during this same period of time.

Accrediting bodies, governmental agencies, private businesses, students and society as a whole have urged that the study of ethics be incorporated into higher education. Blood-good, Turnley and Mudrack (2010) point out that many individuals call for more ethics education, "A majority of deans and faculty members of AACSB member schools, as well as fortune 500 CEOs, believe that more emphasis should be placed on ethics education in business schools" (p. 25).

Business schools appear to be especially vulnerable in seeing not only higher levels of academic dishonesty but also higher levels of acceptance of such behavior. This is important as research has shown that academic dishonesty is related to further unethical behavior by the same individuals after they enter the workforce. As Simkin and McLeod (2010) point out, "A number of studies have found a strong relationship between "cheating" at college and "unethical behavior" at work" (p. 442). In their research on ethical business decisions, Nonis and Smith (2001) found that the tendency to cheat at work was highly correlated with the frequency of cheating in college (Simkin & Mcleod, 2010, p. 442). Day, Hudson, Dobies and Waris (2011) also discussed the apparently high incidents of academic dishonesty in business schools and its implications in the workforce. They point out that "a perception exists that student dishonesty particularly in business schools has grown disturbingly and is at unacceptable levels" (p. 262).

Typical business ethics courses have introduced various philosophies of morality to include deontology, utilitarianism and justice as well as economic theories such as Karl Marx's Socialist Theory as contrasted with the Capitalist Model. These courses may include discussions on shareholder and stakeholder needs, corporate governance, disclosure, culture, corporate responsibility, whistle-blowing, employment rights and property concerns but typically little attention has been paid to what makes one behave ethically and how one may become ethical.

Are these courses effective? It appears that many are not. Antes et al. (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of 26 ethics programs finding "the results showed that overall effectiveness of ethics instruction was modest" (p. 379). They also identified several moderators towards instructional effectiveness including: criterion type, study design characteristics, participant characteristics, quality ratings, instructional content, general instructional characteristics, and characteristics of instructional methods (Antes et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.