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Applying the Ethical Response Model

This paper outlines the Ethical Response Model developed by Newman and Pollnitz (2002) and then works through its application to a dilemma in an early childhood / primary school setting.

The Ethical Response Model

Newman and Pollnitz (2002) developed their Ethical Response model to provide a profession specific model for early childhood teachers. However, it can be equally well applied to primary and secondary schools and across other professions. This model facilitates the resolution of a dilemma in a situation where: 1. No rules or policies exist to inform the decision 2. The rules and policies in place conflict with professional values 3. Clear rules and policies exist but it is still unclear as to what is the best resolution. Using the model will achieve a decision, albeit with varying outcomes for the individuals involved, and also a resolution that other colleagues would come to if they applied the same process. The word cycle is used to represent the continuous process of identification, with each stage of the cycle being applied to any problem, even if only as confirmation e.g. no rules or policies exist to inform the decision. Another strength of this model is that reflection and negotiation are embedded at each stage and documentation is kept either throughout the process or at the end. Documentation provides information about how the judgement was arrived at, what form it takes, the proposed and actual plan, suggestions for future action, developments arising as a result of the action. Stages of the Ethical Response Model 1. Identification of the problem: considering the facts 2. Legal Aspects: are there any rules or policies to consider e.g. national laws 3. Professional Consideration: core values, codes of ethics, principles of professional practice, policies and guidelines 4. Ethical Principles: application of fundamental ethical beliefs including autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and fidelity. These align with the Rules/Principle paradigm (Nash, 1991). 5. Ethical Theories: application of philosophical ethics including rule-based, ends-based and care-based paradigms (Kidder, 1995) (See artefact 2, goal 1 for more detailed information on ethical principles and ethical theories.)

Image retrieved from: Newman and Pollnitz, 2002, p. 115.

6. Informed Inclination: application of professional expertise, experience, knowledge, disposition, values and morals. 7. Judgement: these need to be based on a proven reasoning process, be justifiable, and provide a foundation for a reliable ethical response. 8. Action: this is an outcome of the judgement decision, the process must be documented

Using the Ethical Response Cycle

The following video clip shows a scenario where a centre leader and a tutor are deciding on whether to pass or fail a student teacher. I have chosen this clip as I have had a similar experience with a student teacher in my new entrant class. Although this video depicts an early childhood setting, for the purpose of this exercise I have considered the dilemma from a primary school setting as this allows me to use the Teachers Code of Ethics as part of this problem solving exercise. I will also refer to the professional titles as Associate Teacher and Tutor to make it more relevant to the New Zealand setting.

Click image to run video

1. Identification of the problem Marie is nearing the end of her placement and her tutor and associate teacher are uncertain as to whether to pass her or not. She is a hard worker, works well in a team and has good relationships with parents. The children like her, her interactions are good most of the time and she is fully involved in the tasks and routines of the class. However, there are concerns about her written work. Her evaluations were not up to date and her plans lacked detail. Marie got her written work up to date over the weekend as she promised but her associate teacher felt the links between the tasks and the pedagogy in planning were still weak. The Associate Teacher spent 1 hours with Marie helping her think about planning objectives and how they linked to the chosen

tasks. Marie has until the end of the week to show evidence of her deeper understanding in her planning but her associate teacher has concerns that even if this happens it is not an indication that she can sustain this methodology. 2. Legal Aspects: There are clear requirements for the students paper work involved in this placement and these are in danger of not being met. However, Maries strengths in the practical aspects of her teaching and interactions could warrant some bending of these rules. The discussion between the tutor and the associate clearly indicate this is not a clear cut issue for them. 3. Professional Consideration: The Code of Ethics for Registered Teachers in New Zealand includes the Principle of Responsible care: to do good and minimise harm to others. Marie has many strengths in her face to face dealing with the children and the teaching team, failing her because she is not yet able to make explicit the links between her planning and her actions will damage her self-efficacy and may make her question her commitment to teaching resulting in the profession losing a promising, hardworking, new member. Section 4 of the Code of Ethics, Commitment to the Profession, guides teachers to assist newcomers to the profession, is there some way in which Maries tutor and associate teacher can further help her develop her planning methods rather than failing her. 4. Ethical Principles: The tutor and associate may use informed inclination to favour principles of beneficence, non-maleficence above those of justice and fidelity in this case. This would reinforce the thinking in the previous Professional Consideration stage of the cycle. Ethical Theories: This is not a clear right v.s. wrong problem as that would have been easily solved at the Legal Aspects stage of the cycle. This situation is based on a right .v.s. right scenario, it would be right to pass Marie because of her many strengths and hard work or it would be equally correct to fail her if her written work did not meet the required standard. This could be viewed as an ends-based paradigm where the benefit to the profession of passing Marie would be greater than that of loosing her. Or alternatively a care-based paradigm could apply where compassion for Marie in light of her hardwork and her getting her paper work up to date as required help her tutor and associate to choose against failing her.

5. Informed Inclination: Both the associate and the tutor in this scenario behave as if they have significant experience in these roles. If this is so, they would be able to use their expertise and experience to know instinctively if Marie would make a good teacher. 6. Judgement: Based on the ethical decision process followed, experience, looking at strengths and doing no harm, I feel that Marie should be passed if she can start to show deeper understanding by the end of the week. The reservations of the associate teacher to whether or not this could be sustained cannot be proved either way as Friday is the last day of the placement. It would be unfair to fail Marie on something that might or might not happen.

7. Action:
Marie should be passed if she is able to show some sign of better links in her planning by the end of the week. Opportunities should be provided for her to meet with other students who have strengths in planning and learn from her peers in a low pressure situation. In any future placements Maries associate teacher needs to be aware from the start that initial support maybe needed with planning and that paper work would be a focus.

I found the structure afforded by the Ethical Response Cycle easy and logical to follow allowing the problem to be considered through many different lenses. Working on this alone made me realise the importance of the one aspect of the cycle I was not able to replicate, that of negotiation. Explaining ethical reasoning to another person would, I feel, make the process stronger and more honest.

How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living by Rushworth Kidder. Summary of major concepts. (n.d.). Retrieved September 2013, from http://ssbea.mercer.edu/blanke/Summary%20of%20How%20Good%20People%20Make%20Tou gh%20Choices.pdf Nash, R. J. (1991). Three conceptions of ethics for teacher educators. Journal of Teacher Education, 42(3), 163-172. Retrieved from http://jte.sagepub.com/content/42/3/163.abstract Newman, L., & Pollinitz, L. (2002). Professional, ethical and legal issues in Early CHildhood. pp. 76-123. Retrieved from http://specialistteaching.net.nz/file.php/83/1_Reflective_Ethical_Practice/Newman-1.pdf