A little learning is a dangerous thing? The ethics of teaching accidental tourists in higher education

McDonald, Fiona, Howell, Jennifer, & Lewis, Bridget (2013) A little learning is a dangerous thing? The ethics of teaching accidental tourists in higher education. In AARE 2013 Conference Proceedings, AARE, Adelaide, SA.

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This paper raises questions about the ethical issues that arise for academics and universities when under-graduate students enrol in classes outside of their discipline - classes that are not designed to be multi-disciplinary or introductory. We term these students ‘accidental tourists'. Differences between disciplines in terms of pedagogy, norms, language and understanding may pose challenges for accidental tourists in achieving desired learning outcomes. This paper begins a discussion about whether lecturers and universities have any ethical obligations towards supporting the learning of these students. Recognising that engaging with only one ethical theory leads to a fragmented moral vision, this paper employs a variety of ethical theories to examine any possible moral obligations that may fall upon lecturers and/or universities. In regards to lecturers, the paper critically engages with the ethical theories of utilitarianism, Kantianism and virtue ethics (Aristotle) to determine the extent of any academic duty to accidental tourists. In relation to universities, this paper employs the emerging ethical theory of organisational ethics as a lens through which to critically examine any possible obligations. Organisational ethics stems from the recognition that moral demands also exist for organisations so organisations must be reconceptualised as ethical actors and their policies and practices subject to ethical scrutiny. The analysis in this paper illustrates the challenges faced by lecturers some of whom, we theorise, may experience a form of moral distress facing a conflict between personal beliefs and organisational requirements. It also critically examines the role and responsibilities of universities towards students and towards their staff and the inherent moral tensions between a market model and demands for ‘good' learning experiences. This paper highlights the tensions for academics, between academics and universities and within university policy and indicates the need for greater reflection about this issue, especially given the many constraints facing lecturers and universities.

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ID Code: 67302
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: ethics of teaching, disciplinarity, higher education, HERN
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > OTHER EDUCATION (139900)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 13 Feb 2014 03:59
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2014 19:42

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