Professional ethics

Ethics addresses issues related to concepts of right and wrong. A person’s way of interacting with others plays a central role in this. In teaching profession, questions of ethic are related to themes such as equality, respect for human dignity, truthfulness, fairness and sustainable development. Doing good and avoiding evil are the principles of an ethical person’s actions.

Teachers’ values include respecting human dignity, truthfulness, fairness, responsibility and freedom. Ethical principles cover a teacher’s relationship with their work, students, working community, society, stakeholder groups and pluralism. (OAJ, 2020.)

Differences between ethics and law

A teacher’s obligations and responsibilities are determined by law, but it is not always possible to assess questions of ethics just based on jurisdiction. Teachers have a duty to follow the legislation, but laws cannot replace ethical thinking. On the other hand, ethical principles play a key role in the content and drafting of laws.

International documents have their own set of obligations, in addition to Finnish law. Such documents include, for example, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Plan of Action. World Programme for Human Rights Education (United Nations, 2006). Human rights education can be included in all forms of education. Human rights-based education respects the different cultures and perspectives as well as the uniqueness of each person. (Malama, 2017.)

Values and ethical principles

When the ethics of a certain issue is considered, so are the values related to it. In their work, teachers come across people with different values to the teacher’s own or the values represented by the institute. Despite the differences in values, respecting the other person’s human value must always be the basic principle.

Ethics and digitalisation

Digitalisation is changing the ways we operate. While we now can reach people all over the world, it should be kept in mind that everything we do leaves a permanent trace. This way, the spoken and written word transform the social reality. The digital environment also has a great deal of visual expression, which has many elements that the teacher needs to consider from the perspective of ethicality. Additionally, a teacher of an online course is not responsible for only their own material but also for deciding what kind of conversational culture is acceptable.

Virtue ethics

Virtues guide a person’s growth as a teacher. They give confidence when the teacher faces difficult ethical situations. A teacher’s virtues can include such characteristics as fairness, honesty, patience, courage, kindness and compassion. Teachers will need these kinds of virtues when dealing with people for example in bullying situations or with people who behave in a threatening manner.

The teacher from the student’s perspective

Even today, students often have very high expectations regarding their teachers. They see their teachers as role models and examples and expect them to be well-learned, professional and respectful towards students. The students also want the teacher to set clear rules and make sure that they are followed.

When studying the students’ preconceptions of teachers, it has been stated that mutual respect is a central part of the relationship between teachers and students. According to Thompson (2018), students felt that they were being treated respectfully when, for example, the teacher listened to them actively. Students assessed the quality of school management and the teaching and learning environments based on whether they felt they had been treated with respect. (Thompson, 2018.)

Elsewhere in TLC

Laws, regulations and rules
Diversity in teaching

Links checked 22.2.2021