NSW APS Conference, May 2003.
Teaching ethics: can ethics be learned, and if so, what changes?
Miles Bore, the University of Newcastle.
The tertiary teaching of ethics within professional degrees such as medicine, nursing, law, and psychology has gained considerable momentum in recent years. This paper describes the experience of teaching the ethics of psychological practice to first year psychology students and focuses on the qualitative changes observed in, and exchanges between, the students. Students appeared to readily engage with ethical dilemma scenarios presented as part of the course, and to critically consider descriptions of ethical problems and expectations given by practicing psychologists as visiting lecturers. Many students indicated an apparent conflict of values or principles expressed, at times heatedly, in terms of a tension between the rights and well-being of a client and the expectations and demands of the profession and society. This was particularly evident in discussions concerning confidentiality. It will be argued that these observations, together with empirical findings concerning changes in moral orientation in a sample of medical school students, suggest that teaching ethics might increase the ethical sensitivity and the propensity for ethical professional behaviour of some students, but not all students.
Assessing and selecting future practitioners: can we and should we?
Don Munro and Miles Bore, the University of Newcastle
This paper looks at the identification and measurement of desirable and undesirable traits that have been considered in the screening of medical students in terms of personal suitability for ethical medical practice. We will review work that has been going on for some years (originally presented at the 1998 APS Annual Conference in Melbourne) on (i) a measure of moral orientation based on the dimension Communitarianism versus Libertarianism, and (ii) a personality measure of empathy versus narcissism. We will provide evidence of reliability and validity from studies in several countries, together with factor analyses which indicate the existence of three separate factors for constructs related to moral orientation, empathy and narcissism. This work provides support for a new three-factor model of moral behaviour, which is currently being tested against the behaviours of medical students. The question of whether this approach may be transferable to the screening of psychology students (and students of other helping professions) will be raised for discussion.