Ethics Within and Throughout

Ethics Within and Throughout

When it comes to teaching ethics, should business schools include standalone courses in their programs, or should lessons be spread throughout the curriculum? We share three innovative ways schools are incorporating ethics into their programming.

That ethics should be part of a business curriculum has been widely accepted by educators for years, but just how the subject should be taught has been a matter of considerable debate. Should business schools require standalone ethics courses with measurable learning outcomes to ensure that ethical responsibility is being taught? Or should these lessons be spread throughout the curriculum? In 2016, Timothy Fort, professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, wrote an article titled “Adding Ethics to the Classroom” for BizEd magazine that highlighted some of the pros and cons to each approach.

While the debate continues regarding how best to implement ethics within a business school curriculum, there is agreement that ethics lessons are important and that business schools have a role to play in producing ethically minded leaders. In A Collective Vision for Business Education, an AACSB report regarding the future for business education, business schools are challenged to become enablers of global prosperity. Among the ways to achieve this objective is for business schools to become advocates for the human dimension of business, with special attention paid to ethics. Ethics curriculum isn’t going away, though the manner in which it is infused into the curriculum will certainly continue to evolve.

Given the importance of ethics in a well-rounded business education, it was no surprise that business schools were eager to report the innovative ways they’ve been incorporating ethics into their curriculum. Business schools are taking unique approaches, such as Manchester University’s Ethical Grand Challenge, which makes use of gamification. The following are three additional examples that schools have shared through AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire challenge.

Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics

University of Pittsburgh, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration (USA)

In the Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE), undergraduate business students engage in social responsibility projects with real-world clients through a three-year cohort model. The objective of the CPLE is to prepare students to be ethical leaders in business organizations of all sizes and types. It is a 16-credit track, plus a mandatory internship, that begins during the sophomore year and concludes during the senior year.

Students’ progress through the program as a cohort. The curriculum includes courses in such subjects as managerial ethics and stakeholder management, service learning in organizations, leadership in the social environment, and a capstone seminar. The CPLE follows a service-learning model in which students complete a series of projects for real-world clients. In contrast to community service, in which students volunteer for a cause or organization, service learning requires the students to complete a strategic business project for an external organization that itself offers community-focused or ethical initiatives. The net result is that students are able to put their business skills to use. To date, CPLE students have contributed nearly 16,000 hours of service in class projects and nearly 23,000 hours through summer internships.

Ethics Dinner

Bradley University, Foster College of Business (USA)

In the same way that an etiquette dinner demonstrates appropriate social behavior, the Ethics Dinner at the Foster College of Business helps participants resolve ethical issues found in a business context. The primary motivation for creating the Ethics Dinner was to provide a way for students to learn from professionals about a topic that is critical to decision-making and the long-term success of a business.

At the Ethics Dinner, each table has a group of six students and two business professionals. Everyone is provided with a packet containing various scenarios that happen in the workplace. The scenarios are the “courses” for the meal. The moderator indicates which course (i.e., case) should be discussed among the students and professionals. Once the discussion at the tables concludes, students from several groups report their results to the large group. After the large group discussion, another course is assigned for discussion. This format is repeated for two hours. Throughout the discussions, a simple buffet meal is available, such as salads, sandwiches, and desserts. The Ethics Dinner has been well received by both the business professionals and the students in attendance.

Transformative Learning: Contextualizing Ethical Challenges

University of Kent, Kent Business School (United Kingdom)

Kent Business School introduced an optional module in corporate social responsibility designed to expose students to contextualized ethical challenges as experienced by practitioners in single or cross-sector interactions in profit, nonprofit, and public sector organizations, fostering flipped learning and encouraging students to become reflective practitioners.

In this module, a practitioner guest speaker delivers a presentation with an underlying ethical question. Each student is called to individually reflect on this question and then share their reflections in small groups. Students are then given the opportunity to discuss their views with the practitioner and even challenge the practitioners by questioning the principles and outcomes of the proposed solutions. Pre-recorded theory-based lectures are also available, along with reports provided by the guest speakers, while weekly seminars connect theory with case studies across a wide range of ethical issues.

About Innovations That Inspire

From a pool of 315 submissions spanning 33 countries, the 2017 Innovations That Inspire collection demonstrates business education’s engagement across disciplines, with diverse groups, and with business practice. Thirty-five of these innovations were featured at the 2017 Deans Conference and are available for public browsing. The complete collection of Innovations That Inspire, including the 2016 Innovations That Inspire collection, can be found using AACSB’s DataDirect.