The Application of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists to Teaching: Mandatory Self-Disclosure and Alternatives in Psychology Courses

By Stark, Cannie | Canadian Psychology, August 2011 | Go to article overview

The Application of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists to Teaching: Mandatory Self-Disclosure and Alternatives in Psychology Courses


Stark, Cannie, Canadian Psychology


In recent decades, we have made significant progress in the area of the ethical conduct of research. However, it appears that parallel progress with respect to our ethical responsibilities in the teaching arena has not kept pace with that made in the research area. The focus of this article is on the use of self-disclosure as a mandatory component of psychology courses. Issues such as competence, perceived coercion, confidentiality, conflict of interest, and others are addressed. Our Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists is examined with a view to arriving at decisions on these issues that will be beneficial to most students and not endanger some other students. Viable alternatives to mandatory self-disclosure are presented.

Keywords: ethical teaching, mandatory self-disclosure, alternatives to mandatory self-disclosure

Résumé

Au cours des dernières décennies, d'importants progrès ont été accomplis dans la conduite éthique de la recherche. Toutefois, il semble que le domaine de l'enseignement n'ait pas suivi la même évolution en ce qui a trait aux responsabilités éthiques. Le présent article porte sur le recours à G autorévélation comme volet obligatoire des cours de psychologie. On y traite des notions de compétence, de coercition perçue, de confidentialité et de conflits d'intérêts. Par l'examen du Code canathen de déontologie professionnelle des psychologues, on vise à établir des décisions sur ces notions qui pourront être utiles à la plupart des étudiants et éviter des dangers à d'autres. Des solutions possibles autres que l'autorévélation obligatoire sont aussi discutées.

Mots-clés : enseignement éthique, autorévélation obligatoire, solutions autres que l'autorévélation obligatoire.

We have made considerable progress in recent decades with respect to ethical principles in the conduct of our research [Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), 2000; Tri-Council Policy Statement, 2010]. For instance, we now recognise mat potential research participants cannot be coerced into participating in our research. We now recognise that research participants have the unequivocal right to free and informed consent. We now recognise that research participants have the unequivocal right to decline to answer questions or to perform tasks that we would like them to answer or to do in the course of our research, that they have the right to decline to reveal their inner-most thoughts, perceptions, and emotions, and that we do not have a right to know. We now recognise that participants are free to withdraw from a study at any time including, if deception has been used, deciding that they want their data deleted from the study after they have been debriefed. We now even recognise that the provision of bonus course marks for signing up to participate in research has to have an alternative that is not burdensome.

But what about our ediical responsibilities in the courses that we teach? Have we made as much progress in this sphere as we have with respect to the ediical conduct of research with human participants?

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth living?

As educators, we aspire to ensure that university students' experience of postsecondary education is transformative, that they will never again see the world in quite the same way, that a curiosity will have been nurtured, that they will know more about tiiemselves and about others than they did before entering the hallowed halls of academe. This aspiration is really quite Socratic in nature. For example, in his Dialogues, Plato has attributed to Socrates die statement that 'The unexamined life is not worth living" (Plato, nd). But need we require students to share diat transformative experience, either publicly, for example in inperson class discussions or on web-based discussion fora, and/or semipublicly, for example in written assignments to be read by teaching assistants and/or the instructor. Do we have the right to know the intimate details of students' lives? …

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