Teaching and Learning about Ethics on
Professional Training Programmes:
Insights and Reflections on Practice
Beth Hannah & Patricia Murray
ESWCE Annual Research Conference
18th June 2013
Research Objectives
• Gain insight into ethical awareness
and understanding of trainee
educational psychologists in the early
stages of their professional training
• Inform the teaching of ethics within
the professional training programme
Research Design
• Systematic review of teaching and
learning approaches
– Documentary analysis
– Review of literature
– Dialogue with colleagues
– Investigation of ethical perspectives of
trainee educational psychologists
Documentary Analysis
Comparison of professional guidance and underpinning philosophical
basis of the two main codes for practising psychologists in the UK
Documentary Analysis
•Core Curriculum for training
programmes in Scotland
•Frameworks for
Professional Practice
•Trainees will develop:
“A professional and ethical
value base including
reference to the BPS Code
of Ethics and Conduct and
other relevant guidelines”
Source : British Psychological Society (BPS) (2010) Accreditation through
partnership handbook: Guidance for educational psychology programmes
in Scotland
Programme and Module Learning Outcomes
Demonstrate a professional and ethical value base with reference to the BPS
Code of Ethics and Conduct and other relevant codes of practice
Manage a personal learning agenda promoting critical reflection and selfawareness that enables the transfer of knowledge and skills to new settings and
Engage in and learn from interactive supervision processes, including peer
Professional competence relating to personal and professional development
and awareness of the educational, professional and social context within which
work is undertaken
Engage in a dynamic, responsive and ongoing process to maintain and develop
professional practice through the process of professional reflection, supervision
and CPD
Development of awareness, knowledge, skills and values that enable effective
work with diverse client populations and promotion of equal opportunities
Demonstrate ability to operate effectively within the legislative, national and
local frameworks for EP practice
Manage a personal learning agenda and self-care
Review of Literature
• Moral development and ethical
• Ethical theories
• Positive ethics
• Teaching and learning about ethics
Review of Literature
• Positive ethics
– Roots in scientific field of positive psychology (founded by
Professor Martin Seligman in the 1990s)
– Emphasis on positive values and ideals
– Multi-faceted perspective of ethics, acknowledging and exploring
dynamics between internal and external factors
– Accommodate a range of moral philosophical positions
– Handelsman et al (2005) framework- 7 themes
• ‘values and virtues: inspiring psychologists toward the
ethical ideals of their profession’ ; ‘sensitivity and
integration’; ‘ethics and ongoing self-care’; ethical reasoning
and decision making’; ‘appreciation of the moral traditions
that underlie ethical principles’; ‘prevention of misconduct
and promotion of positive behaviours’; and ‘sensitivity to our
larger professional contexts’
Review of Literature
• Teaching and learning about ethics
– Illingworth (2004) study
• 3 commonly used approaches to
applied/professional ethics teaching in HE
– Pragmatic approach - uses as its starting point the
codes of practice of regulatory bodies
– Embedded approach - students study ethics indirectly
through consideration of the concept of professional
identity but with a significant ethical dimension
– Theoretical approach - commences with study of moral
theory which students then apply to real life situations
Review of Literature: Reflective Questions
• How do we create a teaching and learning environment which
helps students....
– Develop self-awareness of personal moral values and importance of
those values in relation to other values (idea of ‘moral motivation’)
– Develop awareness of virtues they seek to develop (idea of ‘moral
– Examine reasons/motives for entering profession
– Develop ‘moral sensitivity’ to situations
– Sensitivity to own needs as part of ‘self-care’ consideration e.g.
achieving a good work-life balance
– Develop awareness of value base of chosen profession
– Develop ethical reasoning skills (e.g. ethical decision making models)
– Develop knowledge and understanding of ethical principles (e.g.
professional codes of ethics) and ethical theories
– Understand contextual factors (organisational and wider influences)
– Understand the ethical values of other professionals
Investigation of ethical perspectives of
trainee educational psychologists
Focus group interviews
14 participants (n=7 in each focus group)
First term of Year 1
Questions explored participants’
understanding of ethics and conflicts
between personal, professional and
interprofessional ethics
• Thematic analysis of transcriptions
Investigation of ethical perspectives of
trainee educational psychologists
• Six main themes identified
– perspectives on ethics
– ethics as a dynamic process
– factors that inform ethical decision
– ethical dilemmas
– ethical intentions and consequences
– personal values and career choice.
Investigation of ethical perspectives of
trainee educational psychologists
Aware of personal ethics, including its evolving nature, contextual influences
and resultant individual differences
No reference to ethical theories underpinning personal ethics, reflecting a
gap in baseline knowledge
Aware of significance of professional ethics. Viewed codes as offering
guidance to professional behaviour and leading to positive consequences for
both clients and professionals
Able to identify ethical dilemmas in professional practice such as those
arising from conflict with personal values
No reference to ways of addressing ethical dilemmas in professional
practice, such as the use of ethical decision making (EDM) models, reflecting
gap in baseline knowledge
Acknowledge importance of professional development, including role of
formal training, peer support, supervision, working in groups and
opportunities for reflection
Reflections on Practice
• Findings from exploratory
investigation stimulated further
thinking about ways of supporting
trainee educational psychologists’
ethical development through creating
opportunities for learning and a
supportive culture influenced by
positive psychology
Implications for EP Training
Incorporate more explicit teaching of ethical theory and application
using exemplar case studies
Incorporate more explicit teaching of ethical decision making (EDM)
Further opportunities for interdisciplinary learning in a ‘safe’
environment in which trainees are supported by tutors and peers to
reflect on their personal and professional values and those of
students in other disciplines
Greater emphasis on developing self-awareness of personal value
Continue to embed an ‘Implicit curriculum’ where tutors model
respectful and collegiate behaviour; demonstrate care and support
for trainees; whilst challenging trainees to continually aspire to
develop their practice
What we have done
• Use of scenarios based on practice
• More explicit teaching of ethical theory
• More explicit teaching of ethical decision making
• Interdisciplinary learning with social work students
• Stronger emphasis on developing insights into
personal value base using a range of
Future research
• Longitudinal investigation
– participants in this study
– end of their probationary period in
September 2013
– compare their ethical perspectives with
those at beginning of their professional
Implications for other programmes
• Audit and evaluation
– Curricular content
– Approaches to teaching and learning
• Sources
– Documentation (e.g. programme information &
professional reports/guidance)
– Academic staff & placement supervisors
– Students
– Scholarly literature
Any Questions
British Psychological Society (BPS) (2009). Code of ethics and
conduct. Leicester: Author.
British Psychological Society (BPS) (2010). Accreditation through
partnership handbook: Guidance for educational psychology
programmes in Scotland. Leicester: Author.
Handelsmann, M.M., Knapp, S., & Gottlieb, M.C. (2005). Positive
ethics. In C.R. Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive
psychology (pp. 731-744). New York: Oxford University Press.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) (2012). Standards of
performance, conduct and ethics. London: Author.
Illingworth, S. (2004). Approaches to ethics in higher education:
Learning and teaching in ethics across the curriculum. Leeds: PRSLTSN.

Teaching and Learning about Ethics on Professional