Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterOther

Abstract

Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia who had up to five years’ teaching experience responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. Higher order themes and their relationships are examined within the ethical policy context of teachers. Aims and Background Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and thus require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). This poster will focus on the nature of the ethically challenging situation in which teachers find themselves, and the individual reasoning that they apply to specific dilemmas. The aim of the research was to explore whether teachers’ open-ended responses to ethical dilemmas could be categorised thematically across different domains of interactions, such as those relating to physical support, emotional support, or connectivity with students via digital technology. Methodology The study involved 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia, who had up to five years’ teaching experience. Participants responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. The vignettes were designed to align with the concept of the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which Klassen and colleagues (2014). Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. After reading each vignette, participants were asked “if you were this teacher, please write what you would do instead” (if applicable), and “If you were the mentor of this teacher, what advice would you give?” invited open-ended responses. The open-ended responses were subsequently explored using thematic analysis (Guest, MacQueen & Namey, 2012). Findings Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. The first theme “proposed action” included all suggestions of how to respond to the scenario, regardless of how ethical those might be. The second theme, “contextual considerations” included contingent factors which may influence the proposed action of the teacher. For example, in Vignette 1 the age and gender of the student were perceived as relevant contextual considerations which may impact the chosen response. Lastly, “protective behaviour” referred to behaviours which may reduce or prevent harm to the student or teacher involved in the scenario. The contextual considerations in particular provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions as highlighted in the Victorian Teacher Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). To further explore early career teachers’ ethical reasoning across a variety of different dilemmas, the 32 generated codes for contextual considerations across the five vignettes were combined further thematically to form five higher-order categories; situational, ethical, legal, educational, and humanistic. The situational categories included student age, gender, school setting and cultural considerations as well as contingent descriptors of the interaction (e.g., type of hug, accepting vs. offering a hug). Each of the higher-order categories for contextual considerations could be linked with an element of the Victorian Institute of Teaching Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). Situational considerations tended to be socially and culturally constructed, as exemplified by the examples of student gender, age, school setting, intimacy of physical contact, time of day, and cultural factors. The alternative behaviour suggestions were most unique to the specific interactions described in the vignette, and overall, the responses indicated that teachers were generally conscious of their ethical and professional responsibilities. The contextual considerations provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions. The Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a) highlights that teachers require a valid reason to touch a student and a valid context for holding conversations of a personal nature with students via written or electronic means. A professional relationship is seen to be violated in the absence of a justified context/reason, yet examples of what is permissible are not provided, nor a set of criteria upon which to evaluate such factors. Theoretical & Educational Significance Unlike other interpersonal professions such as the medical and psychology professions, consideration of teacher-student interactions from an ethical perspective is in its infancy. It is hoped that this research will address a gap in the literature concerning the measurement and understanding of contemporary professional boundaries of early career secondary teachers. The results of this study have implications for teacher education and professional development in the area of professional and ethical practice. Qualitative data elaborated the ethical reasoning of participants, highlighting the importance of context for developing responses to ethical dilemmas. Factors such as the age, and gender of the target student appeared influential, irrespective of the context of the ethical dilemma. Other contextual considerations were more specifically activated; humanistic obligations were only triggered for situations involving the provision of physical support. Situations involving physical contact generated a large number of contextual considerations, highlighting that teachers may respond quite uniquely to a variety of aspects of the situation. These situational variables may pose ethical traps for teachers if acted upon without evaluation. The ethical decision-making model by Steinman, Richardson and McEnroe (1998) highlights how circumstantiality, or using the context of an ethical dilemma to support one’s actions, can lead to an ethical trap for professionals. While some behaviours may lead to a boundary violation based on the circumstances in which they occur, this is not true for all behaviours. Using contextual considerations such as the age and gender of the student or teacher as the primary decision-making mechanism may detract from the actual behaviour, the underlying motivation, and potential consequences including harm to the student or teacher. If a teacher chooses to act primarily on the weight of the contextual aspects, the rationale for the chosen course of action still needs to be defensible to others. The finding of teachers employing contextually-driven reasoning in response to ethical dilemmas has implications for further development of teacher Codes of Conduct and teacher education.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
EventBiennial EARLI Conference 2017: Education in the crossroads of economy and politics - role of research in the advancement of public good - Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
Duration: 29 Aug 20172 Sep 2017
Conference number: 17
https://earli.org/earli-2017

Conference

ConferenceBiennial EARLI Conference 2017
Abbreviated titleEARLI 2017
CountryFinland
CityTampere
Period29/08/172/09/17
Internet address

Keywords

  • Teacher professional development
  • boundaries transgression

Cite this

Morris, Z. (2017). Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context. Poster session presented at Biennial EARLI Conference 2017, Tampere, Finland.
Morris, Zoe. / Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context. Poster session presented at Biennial EARLI Conference 2017, Tampere, Finland.1 p.
@conference{cb73656843744a2eb899cf1ea6ed9f98,
title = "Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context",
abstract = "Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia who had up to five years’ teaching experience responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. Higher order themes and their relationships are examined within the ethical policy context of teachers. Aims and Background Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and thus require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). This poster will focus on the nature of the ethically challenging situation in which teachers find themselves, and the individual reasoning that they apply to specific dilemmas. The aim of the research was to explore whether teachers’ open-ended responses to ethical dilemmas could be categorised thematically across different domains of interactions, such as those relating to physical support, emotional support, or connectivity with students via digital technology. Methodology The study involved 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia, who had up to five years’ teaching experience. Participants responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. The vignettes were designed to align with the concept of the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which Klassen and colleagues (2014). Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. After reading each vignette, participants were asked “if you were this teacher, please write what you would do instead” (if applicable), and “If you were the mentor of this teacher, what advice would you give?” invited open-ended responses. The open-ended responses were subsequently explored using thematic analysis (Guest, MacQueen & Namey, 2012). Findings Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. The first theme “proposed action” included all suggestions of how to respond to the scenario, regardless of how ethical those might be. The second theme, “contextual considerations” included contingent factors which may influence the proposed action of the teacher. For example, in Vignette 1 the age and gender of the student were perceived as relevant contextual considerations which may impact the chosen response. Lastly, “protective behaviour” referred to behaviours which may reduce or prevent harm to the student or teacher involved in the scenario. The contextual considerations in particular provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions as highlighted in the Victorian Teacher Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). To further explore early career teachers’ ethical reasoning across a variety of different dilemmas, the 32 generated codes for contextual considerations across the five vignettes were combined further thematically to form five higher-order categories; situational, ethical, legal, educational, and humanistic. The situational categories included student age, gender, school setting and cultural considerations as well as contingent descriptors of the interaction (e.g., type of hug, accepting vs. offering a hug). Each of the higher-order categories for contextual considerations could be linked with an element of the Victorian Institute of Teaching Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). Situational considerations tended to be socially and culturally constructed, as exemplified by the examples of student gender, age, school setting, intimacy of physical contact, time of day, and cultural factors. The alternative behaviour suggestions were most unique to the specific interactions described in the vignette, and overall, the responses indicated that teachers were generally conscious of their ethical and professional responsibilities. The contextual considerations provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions. The Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a) highlights that teachers require a valid reason to touch a student and a valid context for holding conversations of a personal nature with students via written or electronic means. A professional relationship is seen to be violated in the absence of a justified context/reason, yet examples of what is permissible are not provided, nor a set of criteria upon which to evaluate such factors. Theoretical & Educational Significance Unlike other interpersonal professions such as the medical and psychology professions, consideration of teacher-student interactions from an ethical perspective is in its infancy. It is hoped that this research will address a gap in the literature concerning the measurement and understanding of contemporary professional boundaries of early career secondary teachers. The results of this study have implications for teacher education and professional development in the area of professional and ethical practice. Qualitative data elaborated the ethical reasoning of participants, highlighting the importance of context for developing responses to ethical dilemmas. Factors such as the age, and gender of the target student appeared influential, irrespective of the context of the ethical dilemma. Other contextual considerations were more specifically activated; humanistic obligations were only triggered for situations involving the provision of physical support. Situations involving physical contact generated a large number of contextual considerations, highlighting that teachers may respond quite uniquely to a variety of aspects of the situation. These situational variables may pose ethical traps for teachers if acted upon without evaluation. The ethical decision-making model by Steinman, Richardson and McEnroe (1998) highlights how circumstantiality, or using the context of an ethical dilemma to support one’s actions, can lead to an ethical trap for professionals. While some behaviours may lead to a boundary violation based on the circumstances in which they occur, this is not true for all behaviours. Using contextual considerations such as the age and gender of the student or teacher as the primary decision-making mechanism may detract from the actual behaviour, the underlying motivation, and potential consequences including harm to the student or teacher. If a teacher chooses to act primarily on the weight of the contextual aspects, the rationale for the chosen course of action still needs to be defensible to others. The finding of teachers employing contextually-driven reasoning in response to ethical dilemmas has implications for further development of teacher Codes of Conduct and teacher education.",
keywords = "Teacher professional development, boundaries transgression",
author = "Zoe Morris",
year = "2017",
month = "9",
language = "English",
note = "Biennial EARLI Conference 2017 : Education in the crossroads of economy and politics - role of research in the advancement of public good, EARLI 2017 ; Conference date: 29-08-2017 Through 02-09-2017",
url = "https://earli.org/earli-2017",

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Morris, Z 2017, 'Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context' Biennial EARLI Conference 2017, Tampere, Finland, 29/08/17 - 2/09/17, .

Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context. / Morris, Zoe.

2017. Poster session presented at Biennial EARLI Conference 2017, Tampere, Finland.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterOther

TY - CONF

T1 - Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context

AU - Morris, Zoe

PY - 2017/9

Y1 - 2017/9

N2 - Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia who had up to five years’ teaching experience responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. Higher order themes and their relationships are examined within the ethical policy context of teachers. Aims and Background Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and thus require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). This poster will focus on the nature of the ethically challenging situation in which teachers find themselves, and the individual reasoning that they apply to specific dilemmas. The aim of the research was to explore whether teachers’ open-ended responses to ethical dilemmas could be categorised thematically across different domains of interactions, such as those relating to physical support, emotional support, or connectivity with students via digital technology. Methodology The study involved 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia, who had up to five years’ teaching experience. Participants responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. The vignettes were designed to align with the concept of the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which Klassen and colleagues (2014). Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. After reading each vignette, participants were asked “if you were this teacher, please write what you would do instead” (if applicable), and “If you were the mentor of this teacher, what advice would you give?” invited open-ended responses. The open-ended responses were subsequently explored using thematic analysis (Guest, MacQueen & Namey, 2012). Findings Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. The first theme “proposed action” included all suggestions of how to respond to the scenario, regardless of how ethical those might be. The second theme, “contextual considerations” included contingent factors which may influence the proposed action of the teacher. For example, in Vignette 1 the age and gender of the student were perceived as relevant contextual considerations which may impact the chosen response. Lastly, “protective behaviour” referred to behaviours which may reduce or prevent harm to the student or teacher involved in the scenario. The contextual considerations in particular provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions as highlighted in the Victorian Teacher Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). To further explore early career teachers’ ethical reasoning across a variety of different dilemmas, the 32 generated codes for contextual considerations across the five vignettes were combined further thematically to form five higher-order categories; situational, ethical, legal, educational, and humanistic. The situational categories included student age, gender, school setting and cultural considerations as well as contingent descriptors of the interaction (e.g., type of hug, accepting vs. offering a hug). Each of the higher-order categories for contextual considerations could be linked with an element of the Victorian Institute of Teaching Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). Situational considerations tended to be socially and culturally constructed, as exemplified by the examples of student gender, age, school setting, intimacy of physical contact, time of day, and cultural factors. The alternative behaviour suggestions were most unique to the specific interactions described in the vignette, and overall, the responses indicated that teachers were generally conscious of their ethical and professional responsibilities. The contextual considerations provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions. The Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a) highlights that teachers require a valid reason to touch a student and a valid context for holding conversations of a personal nature with students via written or electronic means. A professional relationship is seen to be violated in the absence of a justified context/reason, yet examples of what is permissible are not provided, nor a set of criteria upon which to evaluate such factors. Theoretical & Educational Significance Unlike other interpersonal professions such as the medical and psychology professions, consideration of teacher-student interactions from an ethical perspective is in its infancy. It is hoped that this research will address a gap in the literature concerning the measurement and understanding of contemporary professional boundaries of early career secondary teachers. The results of this study have implications for teacher education and professional development in the area of professional and ethical practice. Qualitative data elaborated the ethical reasoning of participants, highlighting the importance of context for developing responses to ethical dilemmas. Factors such as the age, and gender of the target student appeared influential, irrespective of the context of the ethical dilemma. Other contextual considerations were more specifically activated; humanistic obligations were only triggered for situations involving the provision of physical support. Situations involving physical contact generated a large number of contextual considerations, highlighting that teachers may respond quite uniquely to a variety of aspects of the situation. These situational variables may pose ethical traps for teachers if acted upon without evaluation. The ethical decision-making model by Steinman, Richardson and McEnroe (1998) highlights how circumstantiality, or using the context of an ethical dilemma to support one’s actions, can lead to an ethical trap for professionals. While some behaviours may lead to a boundary violation based on the circumstances in which they occur, this is not true for all behaviours. Using contextual considerations such as the age and gender of the student or teacher as the primary decision-making mechanism may detract from the actual behaviour, the underlying motivation, and potential consequences including harm to the student or teacher. If a teacher chooses to act primarily on the weight of the contextual aspects, the rationale for the chosen course of action still needs to be defensible to others. The finding of teachers employing contextually-driven reasoning in response to ethical dilemmas has implications for further development of teacher Codes of Conduct and teacher education.

AB - Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia who had up to five years’ teaching experience responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. Higher order themes and their relationships are examined within the ethical policy context of teachers. Aims and Background Teachers face frequent ethical dilemmas in their daily work (Shapira-Lishchinsky, 2011), and thus require adequate skills in ethical reasoning (Strike & Solitis, 2009). This poster will focus on the nature of the ethically challenging situation in which teachers find themselves, and the individual reasoning that they apply to specific dilemmas. The aim of the research was to explore whether teachers’ open-ended responses to ethical dilemmas could be categorised thematically across different domains of interactions, such as those relating to physical support, emotional support, or connectivity with students via digital technology. Methodology The study involved 227 early career secondary teachers in Australia, who had up to five years’ teaching experience. Participants responded to five vignettes presented within a survey as part of a larger study. The vignettes were designed to align with the concept of the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which Klassen and colleagues (2014). Each vignette outlined a brief situational context in which ethical boundaries of a teacher may be compromised. The interaction domains depicted in the vignettes were: physical support, connectivity, emotional support, instrumental support. After reading each vignette, participants were asked “if you were this teacher, please write what you would do instead” (if applicable), and “If you were the mentor of this teacher, what advice would you give?” invited open-ended responses. The open-ended responses were subsequently explored using thematic analysis (Guest, MacQueen & Namey, 2012). Findings Three themes emerged in the responses across all vignettes: proposed action, contextual considerations, and protective behaviour. The first theme “proposed action” included all suggestions of how to respond to the scenario, regardless of how ethical those might be. The second theme, “contextual considerations” included contingent factors which may influence the proposed action of the teacher. For example, in Vignette 1 the age and gender of the student were perceived as relevant contextual considerations which may impact the chosen response. Lastly, “protective behaviour” referred to behaviours which may reduce or prevent harm to the student or teacher involved in the scenario. The contextual considerations in particular provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions as highlighted in the Victorian Teacher Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). To further explore early career teachers’ ethical reasoning across a variety of different dilemmas, the 32 generated codes for contextual considerations across the five vignettes were combined further thematically to form five higher-order categories; situational, ethical, legal, educational, and humanistic. The situational categories included student age, gender, school setting and cultural considerations as well as contingent descriptors of the interaction (e.g., type of hug, accepting vs. offering a hug). Each of the higher-order categories for contextual considerations could be linked with an element of the Victorian Institute of Teaching Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a). Situational considerations tended to be socially and culturally constructed, as exemplified by the examples of student gender, age, school setting, intimacy of physical contact, time of day, and cultural factors. The alternative behaviour suggestions were most unique to the specific interactions described in the vignette, and overall, the responses indicated that teachers were generally conscious of their ethical and professional responsibilities. The contextual considerations provided an insight into the potential “valid reasons” and “valid contexts” for teacher-student interactions. The Code of Conduct (The Institute, 2008a) highlights that teachers require a valid reason to touch a student and a valid context for holding conversations of a personal nature with students via written or electronic means. A professional relationship is seen to be violated in the absence of a justified context/reason, yet examples of what is permissible are not provided, nor a set of criteria upon which to evaluate such factors. Theoretical & Educational Significance Unlike other interpersonal professions such as the medical and psychology professions, consideration of teacher-student interactions from an ethical perspective is in its infancy. It is hoped that this research will address a gap in the literature concerning the measurement and understanding of contemporary professional boundaries of early career secondary teachers. The results of this study have implications for teacher education and professional development in the area of professional and ethical practice. Qualitative data elaborated the ethical reasoning of participants, highlighting the importance of context for developing responses to ethical dilemmas. Factors such as the age, and gender of the target student appeared influential, irrespective of the context of the ethical dilemma. Other contextual considerations were more specifically activated; humanistic obligations were only triggered for situations involving the provision of physical support. Situations involving physical contact generated a large number of contextual considerations, highlighting that teachers may respond quite uniquely to a variety of aspects of the situation. These situational variables may pose ethical traps for teachers if acted upon without evaluation. The ethical decision-making model by Steinman, Richardson and McEnroe (1998) highlights how circumstantiality, or using the context of an ethical dilemma to support one’s actions, can lead to an ethical trap for professionals. While some behaviours may lead to a boundary violation based on the circumstances in which they occur, this is not true for all behaviours. Using contextual considerations such as the age and gender of the student or teacher as the primary decision-making mechanism may detract from the actual behaviour, the underlying motivation, and potential consequences including harm to the student or teacher. If a teacher chooses to act primarily on the weight of the contextual aspects, the rationale for the chosen course of action still needs to be defensible to others. The finding of teachers employing contextually-driven reasoning in response to ethical dilemmas has implications for further development of teacher Codes of Conduct and teacher education.

KW - Teacher professional development

KW - boundaries transgression

M3 - Poster

ER -

Morris Z. Exploring teacher-student boundaries through ethical dilemmas in the secondary school context. 2017. Poster session presented at Biennial EARLI Conference 2017, Tampere, Finland.