City University of New York (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 775-782
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Although ethics is a core topic within the human service curriculum, preparing students to become ethical professionals is a challenge for human service educators. Ethical decision-making is a craft that students may not easily acquire since an exact formula for determining right versus wrong does not exist. Hence it is wise to present complex scenarios to students to enhance a realistic practice foundation, which includes ethical considerations. This presentation and paper incorporates this element, within a pedagogical setting, as well as introducing an assessment tool which illustrates situational dilemmas within a human service milieu. The focus of the tool is to ascertain student judgment through the ethical decision-making process that may lead to insights, beliefs, and classroom discussion.

Curriculum that includes ethical components and practical examples can assist educators in their quest to mentor potentially ethical human service students. The incorporation of vital elements in the transcendence of this skill may include a discussion of one acquiring a tolerance for ambiguity-in multiple practice situations; self-reflection of thoughts and feelings about certain dilemmas; and the evaluation of the latent and manifest content of a situation, rather then relying on personal opinion (Manning, 2003). Also a worker’s choice of method, in a situation, can sometimes be contradictory, erratic, and fallible. It then may be beneficial to “distinguish between questions of preferred method and questions of ethics” (Garthwait, 2008, p. 183).

Ethical situations and training can be as atypical and diverse as the clientele one may serve (Chang, Scott & Decker, 2009). In these cases seasoned practitioners will perceive perplexing situations as a “complex process” while those less evolved will seek the “black-and-white or right-or-wrong process” to problem solving (Neukrug, 2008, p. 52). Or when uncomfortable, the latter group may even go as far as redefining the problem to coincide with their desired solution (Welfel, 2006). These workers are unaware of a “systematic” approach to tackling ethical dilemmas (Lichtenstein, Lindstrom & Kerewsky, 2005, p. 27) and need to be trained to do so as such.

Human service workers and students need to recognize that even the most benign situations require thought and perceptive judgment. With lack of awareness practitioners may be ignorant to how their personal or preferred behaviors can impact and influence consumers by promoting their own, or the agency’s, interests (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2007; Dolgoff, Loewenberg & Harrington, 2009). In fact decisions based on ones own needs, is a form of abusive clinical power that is “exploitive in nature and therefore harmful to the client” (Sperry, 2007, p. 132). To successfully teach professional clinical concepts, educators must then present the most true to life ethical dilemmas for students to contemplate and decipher.
Ethical dilemmas, assessment tool, human services, dual relationships, confidentiality, treatment, self-awareness, duty to warn.