High school teachers’ perceptions of their teacher education programs and moral challenges in teaching.
Teaching has long been viewed as a moral profession for several reasons: 1) teachers tend to enter the profession motivated by moral reasons; 2) teachers are expected to behave ethically in both their professional and personal lives; and 3) teachers are expected to participate in shaping their students into ethical people. Unlike undergraduate business, engineering, pre-med, and nursing programs, education programs largely do not offer required or elective ethics courses. How, then, are teachers coping with the moral aspects of their profession? This study addresses part of this question. It sought to discover teachers’ attitudes toward their preparedness to manage moral challenges in school. This case study was conducted through questionnaires, interviews, and the acquisition of narratives among thirteen participating high school teachers who provided their perspectives on the ethical challenges they have experienced, as well as their experiences in the ethics education provided by their teacher education programs. The data were analyzed by coding for themes, leading to pattern-matching analysis and constant comparative analysis. Seven themes emerged through repeated comments and responses: 1) moral/ethical conduct on the part of teachers seems to be important to teachers; 2) most moral challenges teachers face result from tension between the individual and the system; 3) teachers view cheating as the number one moral challenge for their students; 4) teachers use “teachable moments” to help students resolve moral challenges; 5) teachers’ pre-service ethics preparation was not extensive; 6) field experiences may provide the greatest ethical preparation for pre-service teachers; and 7) professional development involving the use of case studies may be an effective means of providing ethics education. The implications of this research are that (1) teachers may think of ethics in relation to rules and laws, (2) teachers seem to have assumed responsibility for the moral development of their student, (3) teachers may benefit from more opportunities to practice making ethics-related decisions in both teacher education programs and professional development, and (4) teacher education programs may be better able to prepare teachers to resolve moral challenges by offering an ethics course, and (5) teachers may benefit from receiving professional development focused on ethics, moral challenges, and moral development.