Academic journal article Education

Ethical Issues and Dilemmas in Research at Teachers' Colleges

Academic journal article Education

Ethical Issues and Dilemmas in Research at Teachers' Colleges

Article excerpt

Preface

Teachers' colleges in Israel have expanded and the number of academic colleges has increased as accreditation of these institutions has progressed in the last two decades. Consequently they are enlarging their research activity, so various ethical issues are arising and will continue to do so.

The present paper is an attempt to contend with ethical issues in research in the social sciences and education. It is not merely one chapter among many on the ethical dilemmas of a profession, but a discussion that is itself part of scholarly investigation as a profession. In studying the subject, before we began to analyze and apply the concepts, we surveyed a diverse body of literature. It covered professional ethics in general (in several professions research is a component of professional activity), the ethics of research in the social sciences and education, and the ethics of faculty members in higher education. We also assembled codes of ethics, the preambles to which, like the codes themselves, helped us clarify the relevant ideas.

We thought this subject should be brought up for discussion so that the research culture forming in the new academic colleges and teachers' colleges in Israel may develop on the proper ethical foundations, and these institutions may be aware of potential difficulties and ways of coping with them. This issue seems important mainly at colleges for teacher education, as they foster educational research in these colleges and train future teachers who will be involved in research projects such as action research and educational program evaluation. Likewise, from practical knowledge they extract theoretical-professional knowledge. We set forth the ideas, basic principles, and dilemmas as we found them in the literature and analyzed and formulated them for the specific needs of research activity at teachers' colleges and at any new academic institution.

Professional Ethics vs. Morality

Professional ethics, a field that deals with "what is appropriate and what is proper" (Aloni, 1995), is not only the realm of professionals seeking to define their rights and duties. Such ethics is also the realm of philosophers and other social theoritians (Burgess, 1989). Philosophers have dealt extensively with the morality of science. Every attempt to examine the norms of professional ethics in light of moral standards points to a distinct, overt tension between the two. Although the Webster New Collegiate Dictionary (1961: 283) defines ethics with a series of phrases, all of which contain the word "moral," norms of professional ethics are not professional morals (Homan, 1991. In the professional realm, one should not conclude that ethics is the same as morality, or that a code of ethics is a moral code, because professional ethics gives a great deal of weight, some say excessive, to the self-interest of the profession (Levin, S. 1981; Homan, 1991).

Ethics has to do with standards set by the profession and regulation of its members' conduct. In everyday application, it involves not a philosophical examination of values but recognition of agreed standards. Therefore, there may be tension between personal moral standards and the ethical norms of a profession (Homan, 1991). In addition to a commitment to the individual client and a commitment to the general public (which will be explained below), the professional has a commitment to the profession and its stature. The more this last commitment is portrayed as a means of providing better service to the individual and to society, the more it becomes an end in and of itself. For example, although ethics guarantees a certain quality of service to which the public is entitled, it also guarantees protection, autonomy, and freedom from external supervision to those engaged in the profession (Levin, S., 1981). The rules of ethics are intended, among other things, to help professionals withstand external pressures (Sabar Ben-Yehoshua and Gibton, 1995), thereby reinforcing the authority and stature of the profession. …

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