Fostering Ethical Development in the BusCom Classroom

By Janet Mizrahi, BizComBuzz Staff Writer                                                                                   Lecturer, UCSB Writing Program

If your bus com students are anything like mine, there are days when you’re happy to read an assignment that at least doesn’t contain basic grammar errors. Those are the days when I despair that my course objectives also include fostering critical thinking and ethical behavior.

So I was thrilled when I came upon the non-profit higher education organization IDEA and a post about how to include teaching ethics development in any discipline. Using its overall design, I’ll share the Guffey Team’s take on this important learning outcome.

First, some background. We know that most industries and fields have codes of conduct. However, if we want students to genuinely understand why it’s important to be ethical, simply introducing codes of conduct is not enough. To learn how to make ethical choices, students must learn how to think critically so they can apply ethical reasoning to make ethical decisions.

Arriving at an ethical choice requires going through a series of critical analysis steps (visit for an excellent model of these steps in a real-world situation.)

  1. Recognize an event that requires a reaction.
  2. Define that event as having an ethical component.
  3. Consider the ethical aspect to be one of significance.
  4. Take personal responsibility to solve the problem.
  5. Research the abstract ethical rules that may pertain to the situation.
  6. Determine how those rules apply to the specific situation.
  7. Be ready to respond to forces that would negatively impact acting in an ethical way.
  8. Act.

Studies have shown that the best way to integrate teaching ethics is through case studies done individually or as group work. In the business communication classroom, many opportunities for both exist. Here are a few you might consider:

  • Assign a case (or several from which students can choose) to be completed as an individual assignment resulting in a memo or report that not only requires ethical thinking but that emphasizes basic business writing strategies.
  • Create a unit dedicated to ethics using a case on which students work in groups to write a report or a presentation. This can be a major assignment that comes at the end of a semester, after which students have learned and practiced business communication skills.

To find a business-related case that might work for your class, check out the following links.

Arthur Andersen Case Studies in Business Ethics

International Relations Ethics Case Studies

Let us know if you have chosen to work this important learning outcome into your classes!



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