The moral profession: a study of moral development and professional ethics of faculty

Cañizales Vargas, Rafael Antonio
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

The purpose of this study was to explore moral development and professional ethics of higher education faculty. Numerous studies have explored moral development of college students but there is a need for more studies focusing on faculty. Six hundred tenure track faculty were selected at random from the four research universities in Texas. Three instruments were sent to each potential participant: the Defining Issues Test (DIT), a survey of Ethical Beliefs about the Ethics of Teaching and a demographic questionnaire. The DIT was used to measure the level or moral reasoning. The ethics questionnaire posed questions about specific ethical issues that faculty face during the course of their duties. Responses were received form 229 participants, a response rate of 38.2%. The mean moral reasoning score of faculty in this sample was P= 47.3, which was below expectations. Statistical tests explored the differences in moral reasoning of faculty in relation to demographic variables, and the differences in beliefs about the ethics of teaching in relation to level of moral reasoning. No statistical differences in moral reasoning of faculty were found in relation to age, gender, tenure status, highest degree attained and academic department. High and low levels of moral reasoning were not significantly related to beliefs about ethical dilemmas. Level of moral reasoning accounted for no more than 15% of variability in responses to questions on ethics. In secondary analysis, age produced more variability of responses to questions on ethical beliefs. Faculty of ages 35 or below revealed more favorable attitudes towards questionable behaviors, particularly in the area of preparedness for teaching. Recommendations from this study include the need for training in professional ethics and moral sensitivity, and conducting further research into 1) ethical attitudes of faculty ages 35 or below, 2) conduct of faculty, and 3) what ethics and values are being taught on campus.