UBC Theses and Dissertations
Ethical issues and codes of ethics : views of adult education practitioners in British Columbia Gordon, Wanda Marja
Over the last decade, practice ethics in adult education has become an increasingly visible topic of interest and concern in the literature of the field. However, relatively little research has been done in the whole area of ethics and codes of ethics. This study was undertaken to broaden the empirical data base within the field and provide further insight into the area of practice ethics. The purpose of the study was to examine the views of adult educators in British Columbia about the need for a code of ethics for the field of adult education and to identify the issues, concerns and dilemmas experienced by them. The study is an approximate replication of a 1991 study by McDonald in the state of Indiana. Using survey methodology, three groups of adult education practitioners (N = 460) received a mailed questionnaire that included items related to the study topic and demographic characteristics. A 60% return rate was achieved. The major findings generated by this study confirm positive practitioner views about codes of ethics and support the findings reported in the Indiana study. The findings of this study include: • The majority of adult educators surveyed believe there should be a code of ethics for the field of adult education. • Less than a majority of adult educators surveyed knew of the existence of, or were currently operating under, a code of ethics. • The majority of adult educators surveyed indicated an overall positive view about the general functions of a code of ethics. • Issues related to the learner are most frequently cited as needing to be addressed in a code of ethics for the field of adult education. • The professional association was the most frequently identified organization that adult educators believe should create, disseminate and enforce a code of ethics. • The majority of adult educators either disagree or are unsure about the regulating function of a code of ethics. • The majority of adult educators surveyed cited examples of ethical issues/concerns/dilemmas from their practice settings. • The most frequently cited ethical issues/dilemmas relate to confidentiality concerns and learner/adult educator relationship issues. Historically, the debate about the need for a code of ethics for the field of adult education has been focused within the academic community. This study contributes a practitioner perspective to the ongoing debate. The strong message conveyed by British Columbia adult educators about the need for a code of ethics also clearly reflects the growing trend of code development by professional associations in Canada and the United States. Continued emphasis on educational efforts to address the issues arising from this study and further research in the area of practice ethics are suggested.
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