An Investigation of Teacher Candidate Ethical Identity

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Title: An Investigation of Teacher Candidate Ethical Identity
Author: Maher, Michael John
Advisors: Dr. Colleen Wiessner, Committee Member
Dr. Alan Foley, Committee Member
Dr. Susan Osborne, Committee Member
Dr. Alan J. Reiman, Committee Chair
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to investigate the ethical identity of teacher education candidates. Ethical identity is composed of candidate ethical sensitivity, ethical judgment, and ethical action in a clinical context. A study of this nature is necessary because classrooms in the United States are becoming more diverse (racially, ethnically, linguistically) and yet the teaching profession and those entering the profession continue to reflect primarily the majority culture. The disconnect between student and teacher culture can be remedied by effective parent/caregiver communication. However, training in parent/caregiver communication is virtually nonexistent in teacher education programs. This study investigated the ethical identity of teacher education candidates using a series of seven research hypotheses and two research questions. These hypotheses and questions were used to address the following question: What is the relationship between teacher candidate ethical sensitivity, ethical judgment, and ethical action in a clinical setting? The assessment of ethical judgment occurred first with the administration of the Defining Issues Test (DIT) to a sample of 40 undergraduate teacher education students. Ethical sensitivity was assessed using the Racial Ethical Sensitivity Test (REST) and consisted of a sample of 22 students who participated in the DIT administration. To assess ethical action in a clinical context, a purposeful, stratified sample of 12 students were selected. These students participated in a 'standardized' parent conference where their verbal sensitivity was analyzed using an Adapted Flanders Interaction Analysis. Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to investigate the relationships between each of the variables (Ethical Sensitivity, Ethical Judgment, Ethical Action). Additionally, within-group and post-hoc analyses of three cases were conducted to better explicate the findings resulting in a more robust conception of teacher candidate ethical identity. Among the significant quantitative findings were a moderate negative correlation (-0.42) between candidate ethical sensitivity and candidate indirect verbal interaction and a moderate correlation (-0.37) between candidate ethical judgment and the proportion of teacher candidate talk. Qualitative findings suggest there are advantages to the use of the standardized parent in teacher education preparation. As well, the three post-hoc case analyses show clear areas of divergence between individuals at low, moderate, and high levels of ethical sensitivity and ethical judgment. As ethical sensitivity and ethical judgment increase there is an increasing awareness of the need to identify and accept feelings, an increasing awareness of how to proceed to determine an ethically justifiably course of action, an increasing recognition of the responsibility to confront those in positions of power who use racial or gender bias, and an increasing awareness of a 'felt sense of personal responsibility' in creating and/or remedying an ethical dilemma. Findings from this study of ethical judgment, racial/ethical sensitivity, and ethical action in a clinical setting suggest that Blasi's (1980) comprehensive review of the relation between moral reasoning and behavior is a definitive work on the question of relationships between moral judgment, moral sensitivity, and moral action. The proposed self model has three major components of ethical functioning that could guide program design in Colleges of Education. This dissertation concludes with a manner in which to incorporate this model into a teacher education program.
Date: 2005-01-31
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Curriculum and Instruction

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