Ethical and Professional Judgment In defining this Student Learning Outcome, California Lutheran University states: : Students will: Understand ethical principles within their fields Apply professional standards and ethical principles in making decisions The School of Business at California Lutheran University adds: “Business ethics is the study of what constitutes right and wrong, or good and bad, human conduct in a business context.”1 There are both business ethics and professional ethics. The term “business ethics” is broad and refers to interactions with and on behalf of the public and within a business organization. “Professional ethics” is a term applied to a set of rules, guiding principles and expectations applied to proper and “right” activities and decision making for a given profession – dentists, doctors, lawyers, accountants, social workers, nurses, etc. Most professions publish, offer continuing professional education and enforce a particular ethical code. Ethical and professional judgment is the highest standard of thought, philosophy and action of a group. Violations of the prescribed practices and guidelines are considered a lapse in meeting legal and social responsibilities of that group. Violations to any code of conduct threatens the reputation of the entire group of professionals and is often punished or, at the very least, offending individuals are censured. Ethical and professional standards and rules of conduct are published, the subject of professional entrance exams in many business disciplines (CMA, CPA, CFM, CFA, Law, etc.) and are mentioned in mission statements and included in most university curricula. The following “code of conduct” summarizes the expectations of members of the Association for Investment Management and Research.2 “Act with integrity, competence, dignity, and in an ethical manner when dealing with the public, clients, prospects, employers, employees and fellow members. “Practice and encourage others to practice in a professional and ethical manner that will reflect credit on members and their profession. “Strive to maintain and improve their competence and the competence of others in the profession. “Use reasonable care and exercise independent professional judgment.” While these are fundamental tenets for ethical and professional behavior, students need to be formally taught underlying rules. While it is difficult to “teach values,” it is imperative that students are modeled and mentored as well as informed in such a way that an appropriate value system emerges, serving them well in their careers. This often begins with exposure to rules governing academic honesty and intolerance for plagiarism and cheating in their course work. Beyond that, as students develop an appreciation for the importance of honesty in their own actions and work, they learn to discriminate 1 Moral Issues in Business, 4th edition, William Shaw and Vincent Barry, chapter 1, page 3. 2 Ethical and Professional Standards CFA, Level 1, PassPro for CFA, page 4. between ethical and unethical behaviors, they learn to anticipate consequences, then learn rules and ways of dealing with aberrations among supervisors, peers and subordinates. In many professions, especially where licensure is required, continuing education with a focus on ethical standards is necessary for an individual to maintain their status as a qualified practitioner. Typical examples are Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Financial Manager (CFM) and attorneys. In recent years, required continuing professional education specifically on ethics and professional practice has become more prevalent due to well-publicized violations of trust which resulted in widespread damage to stakeholders of various organizations. Morality and etiquette are closely related to ethical and professional behavior. However, etiquette is usually referred to as a custom or rule of polite demeanor. It follows local conventions of human interaction. Morality is a collection of attitudes guiding one’s own actions, reactions and decisions. “… many things influence us in the moral principles we accept: our early upbringing, the behavior of those around us, the explicit and implicit standards of our culture, our own experiences, and our critical reflections of those experiences..”3 Students (in their chosen course of study) will be exposed to cultural and philosophical differences that provide an educational background and the ability to make informed decisions as they develop in their careers. They will learn what is expected of them as “life long learners” to keep themselves current in their profession. Level of Assessment (based on Bloom’s Taxonomy4:) Level 1: Knowledge and Comprehension At this level of knowing, students should be able to recognize the terminology from literature/discussion of “Ethical and Professional Judgment.” They would see value in developing those skills, and begin to identify relevant information for thinking through their own attitudes and values. Level 2: Application and Analysis At this level of knowing, students would be able to recognize and apply ethical rules and principles to solve a problem, make recommendations or analyze options. They would be able to predict consequences and results. In their field of study, they would have an appreciation for the particular rules and expectations of that professional code of conduct. Level 3: Synthesis and Evaluation Achievement at this level would include an ability to take a holistic view of ethics and principles. This view would include the use of morals and values in decision making, yet distinguishing those from ethics. They would be able to evaluate, argue for or against changed codes of ethics in response to changes in the business 3 Moral Issues in Business, 4th edition, William Shaw and Vincent Barry, chapter 1, page 9. 4 http://www.officeport.com/edu/blooms.htm environment. They would be able to incorporate ethical and professional judgment across their personal and business roles. For student assessment, sample questions and a more detailed look at what is expected at all 6 levels of knowledge in Bloom’s Taxonomy, this link is helpful.
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