Ethical Changes in the Classroom Term Paper

Ethical Changes in the Classroom Over the Past 50 Years

The ethical responsibilities of teachers have undergone dramatic changes over the past fifty years, reflecting the changes in our culture today. As contemporary society becomes increasingly diverse and complex, so does the process of preparing young people for life as independent thinkers, productive citizens, and future leaders. The changing nature of students, the collegiate experience, learning, teaching, and outcome assessment all have substantive implications for altering educational practice. Trends such as appearance, actions and language have set the pace that there are no absolutes, no common values, and no core set of moral ideas. Ethical relativism has become the norm due to our current society’s vast historical events that have led to distinct changes in the responsibilities of teachers and ethics over the past fifty years.

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The classrooms of today are filled with students of diverse age, socioeconomic status, gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and learning and physical ability. Their diversity is definitely greater today than at any other time in the history of American higher education. What was at one time the traditional college student, a white male of 18 to 20 years old, attending a four-year, liberal arts college full-time, and living on campus, is now a minority student in higher education. In addition to those students, the current college population also includes significant proportions of older students returning to school due to changes in the economy, women’s roles, and work environments. Over half of the undergraduate population is over 21 years of age, and 41% are over 24 years of age.

Another difference is the socioeconomic status of current students. This ranges from those whose families are able to finance their education fully, to adults whose incomes must also cover family expenses, to low-income students who require financial assistance. Students from lower economic and societal classes during their youth have led many of today’s college students to value vocational training over learning for learning’s sake. As compared to the past, women currently make up the majority of most institutions’ undergraduate student bodies. The current changes in women’s educational and political interests have expanded in some traditionally male-dominated fields and have decreased other traditionally female dominated fields as well. This increased presence of women and different needs have altered campus services and raised the issue of bias toward particular groups of students.

Additionally, members of historically under-represented racial and ethnic groups, such as African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American now constitute approximately a fourth of the current number of undergraduates. This dramatic diversity in the student body requires the expansion of perspectives taught in higher education. It also requires educational communities to be open to different implications regarding levels of preparation, learning styles, and available time for study. Educational communities now need to take into consideration family and occupational responsibilities.

Awareness of and understanding the differences in sexual orientation are also crucial to the growing population of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students whose marginalization can affect their educational experience.

Physical, learning, and health-related disabled students are also attending college in increasing numbers and usually require accommodations to maximize their educational opportunities. Students are increasingly coming from single-parent homes, have experienced mental or physical abuse, have experienced substance abuse, and seek counseling for these personal and family mental health issues while attending college. The complexity of this student body produces multiple educational goals, learning approaches, and situational factors that can present teachers with many new ethical challenges unknown in prior years.

The increasing complexity of students’ backgrounds and educational goals is reflected in the varying approaches students take to higher education. The amount of students enrolling in graduate and professional degree programs is rapidly growing, as well as the number of those enrolling in certificate programs. Diverse educational goals, as well as varying life and economic circumstances, produce different patterns in student attendance. Enrollment in part-time programs is increasing, and part-time students currently make up approximately 40% of the undergraduate enrollment. Sporadic enrollment is expected to grow as family, work, and economic resources constrain students’ abilities to attend college on a continuous and regular basis. Transfers among institutions are also more widespread and commonplace than they were before.

Although higher education tends to be a part of students lives, in many cases college attendance is not the core activity in their lives. For these students, college must compete with employment and family obligations. Distance learning and increasingly sophisticated technology, such as online courses, have changed the possibilities for engaging in higher education and the nature of the educational experience. The traditional four or five-year full-time program at a residential college is no longer the most frequent course of obtaining a college education.

Both the evolving nature of society and the increasingly diverse student body have led to re-conceptualizations of learning outcomes and processes. Higher education must now prepare students to shoulder their moral and ethical responsibility to confront and wrestle with the complex problems they will encounter in the real world. Critical thinking skills, the ability to gather and evaluate evidence, and the ability to communicate orally and in writing are essential learning outcomes if students are to get beyond relativity to make informed judgments. Adult students’ abilities to manage their own work, take care of their own families, and contribute to their communities have become increasingly prevalent.

Recent research also indicates that the sources of influence on students’ learning are as varied and interconnected as are the ways in which students learn. Current research indicates that students’ out-of-class experiences promote critical thinking skills independent of their classroom experiences. This view of learning necessitates the consideration of multiple educational outcomes that include complex cognitive skills, an ability to apply knowledge to practical problems, an appreciation of human differences, and practical competence skills. Teachers must recognize that students are active participants in the learning process and that students approach this process from multiple frameworks. Teachers of today must also realize that students’ academic and cognitive development are shaped by their out-of-class experiences as well as their formal academic experiences.

Education reform efforts increasingly emphasize that the traditional transmission of knowledge from teacher to student is no longer sufficient. Teaching students to actively develop knowledge, to evaluate information and evidence, and to become adept at making informed decisions requires modeling these processes and engaging students in practicing them. Trends in undergraduate education in America reveal that there is a movement in perceptions of the faculty member’s role in the classroom away from that of the provider of instruction to that of the facilitator of student learning. In this way, students are able to discover and learn for themselves, become members of learning communities as they make discoveries and solve problems.

Collaboration, active engagement, and inclusion characterize some current instructional approaches. Nowadays teachers and students collaborate, as do students and their peers. The old traditional boundaries between the roles, responsibilities, and activities of teachers and learners are eliminated. This collaboration takes place in learning communities in which learners respect one another and work toward common goals for everyone’s success. Active engagement involves bringing one’s experience to learning, being willing to expand one’s understanding, integrating new perspectives into one’s thinking, and applying that changed thinking to one’s own life. These forms of teaching are inclusive because they invite all students’ experiences and thoughts into the learning interaction. This teaching trend revolves around the way educators view knowledge, authority, and learning capability.

The rapid evolution of information technology also plays a part in reshaping the nature of the instructional process. The availability of a vast array of information technologies have significantly increased students’ power and opportunities to learn under conditions with limited supervision of an instructor.

However, the educational consequences of technology-enhanced classrooms are as still to be known.

The Vietnam War also spurred many of the changes in the ethical responsibilities of teachers in the past fifty years. From 1968 to 1998 the list of Army values underwent four major revisions, expanding from three to seven in number, and the definition of leadership went from an art to a process, to an essential element of combat power, then back to a process. Classroom instruction in ethics increased from a handful of courses offered intermittently on various posts in the late 1960s to complete core and advanced courses in ethics at West Point, the U.S. Army War College, and the Command and General Staff College. Instruction in medical ethics for Army heath care providers increased to include courses at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and most other Army medical centers and general hospitals.

For around two centuries the American Army paid little attention to the philosophical discipline of ethics. There were courses at West Point in the 19th century in ethics and moral philosophy, however these gave way to more practical courses in leadership and military law by the end of the century. Commanders used the military law, Army regulations, and the advice of staff officers, including the chaplain, to deal with moral and ethical issues. The Vietnam War was a turning point in the Army’s growing realization that senior military leaders, and not just political leaders, had a responsibility to be able to speak to soldiers, to the American people, and to the press about ethical issues.

The Professionalism Study of 1970, examined institutional systems and requirements for success in the Army, attitudes and values of senior officers, and tasks for the 1970s. One of the striking conclusions of the first study was that the Army contained “untoward and unhealthy pressures to strive for success” on the part of officers. Systems that regulated the selection, education, promotion, and reward of Army officers were in need of major correction.

It was clear that the Army needed to evaluate its concepts of values and ethics.

During the decades of the 1970s and 1980s senior commanders in all the services began to exert their influence on the direction and content of ethics instruction. Courses in ethics were added to the curricula in the Army service schools, at the service academies, in ROTC instruction, and at the war colleges. The vast majority of Americans agreed that the Army had fought in the Gulf with restraint, had avoided many of the problems it had encountered in Southeast Asia, and had performed missions of humanitarian relief in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe with total dedication. A 1973 Harris poll had revealed that by the end of the Vietnam War, the American public ranked the military only above sanitation workers in relative order of respect.

After Operation Desert Storm, it seemed that the ethical reputation of the military profession was at a high point in the eyes of the American public. After that same period, in 1994-98, the service academies and even some state military schools came under media fire for breakdowns in good order and discipline. In 1994 a string of criminal incidents involving midshipmen at Annapolis caused concern at the highest levels of the Navy’s leadership. The Army undertook the task of determining and explaining its values, and the rationale for those values, in a new statement of the Army ethic.

In early 1995, a study, Character Development in the U.S. Army: A Proposal to Change the Future, proposed a strategy for a Character Development Program in the Army which would reflect “a developmental and progressive process of training.” Such a process would build a standardized, progressive, developmental, and sequential curriculum in character development.

One group of officers argued that character development was the central goal of leadership. Character development could include embedding the Army’s values of loyalty, integrity, respect, and personal courage in the developmental process, to produce a person of healthy self-esteem and reliability. The character development supported by the Army and by virtue ethics had some advantages. It could be applied universally, was not dependent on any understanding of religious virtues.

Virtue ethics also offered a tempting first step for those who may not have had any other moral grounding.

The motivation for virtue ethics was one of self-interest and self-development. The necessity of spiritual support for personnel in crisis was not only recognized by the Army, but also by others who related it to teaching and learning processes.

The growing violence in secondary schools and neighborhoods has affected some students’ pre-college educational experiences in ways totally foreign to the traditional student, and most of today’s teachers were these traditional college students. The 1998 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, Survey Data on Youth Violence portrays a troubling picture of the attitudes and actions of America’s youth regarding guns and violence. Fifty years ago, such issues were not faced on a regular basis by teachers in the classroom as they are today. According to the 1998 data, 24% of male high school students, and 18% of male middle school students, say they took a weapon to school at least once in the past year. Numbers such as these were unheard of until recent times.

In the 1998 study, males were substantially more likely to carry weapons than females and older students were more likely to carry weapons than younger ones. Still, 5% of all students 10 to 12 years of age say they took a weapon to school. 6% of all 13 to 14-year-olds reported to have taken a weapon to school. On a separate question, 14% of males in high school, and 9% of those in middle school, said they “sometimes” carried a weapon to school for protection. More disturbing, 59% of males in high school, and 35% of those in middle school said they could get a gun if they wanted to. 70% of all high schoolers and 73% of all middle schoolers said they hit a person in the last twelve months because they were angry. Though less likely to engage in violence, a majority of the females, 63% in high school and 68% in middle school, reported to have hit someone in anger during the past year. Teachers must face this problem of student violence in the classrooms of today.

Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, states that the 1998 survey data reveals “a hole in the moral ozone and being sure that children can read is certainly essential, but it is no less important that we deal with the alarming rate of cheating, lying and violence that threatens the very fabric of our society.” The CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition points out that a contemporary solution for teachers dealing with dilemmas such as these is “character education,” or the six pillars of character: responsibility, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring and citizenship.

In addition to the problems of violence in the classroom, teachers also face cheating, lying, stealing and drinking at school, more now than ever in the past. 71% of high school students admitted to cheating on an exam at least once in the past twelve months and 45% said they did so two or more times. In the same 1998 study, 92% lied to their parents in the past twelve months, 79% said they did so two or more times, 78% said they lied to a teacher, 58% two or more times, and more than one in four said they would lie to get a job. The ratio for student stealing has also increased. 40% of males and 30% of females reported having stolen something from a store in the past twelve months. Furthermore, nearly one in six students reported to having been drunk during the past year and 9% said they were drunk two or more times.

These studies also show that from 1992 to 1996 statistics of students and crime and cheating, honesty and integrity, things are going from very bad to worse. Curiously, 91% report that they are “satisfied with my own ethics and character.” Josephson finds this “especially troubling,” stating that “young people know what they’re doing is wrong… there is an inconsistency in what they say they believe and how they act.” The study reports that young people say they know their teachers and parents expect them to be honest and ethical. 83% stated that “my parents always want me to do the ethically right thing no matter what the cost” and only 7% reported that “my parents would rather I cheat than get bad grades.” survey researched by the Pinnacle Group in Minnesota found that 59% of the high-school students surveyed would willingly face six months probation in order to do an illegal drug deal worth $10 million dollars. 67% reported that they did in fact plan to inflate their expense account in the business world, and 50% stated that they would lie to achieve a business objective. In another study by Professor Donald McCabe of Rutgers University, 76% of those planning careers in business admitted to having cheated at least once on a test. In the same study, 19% admitted to having cheated four or more times, and 68% of future doctors, 63% of future lawyers, and 57% of future educators admitted to having cheated at least once.

Educators are concerned because these studies are reflections of America’s current students, who will be America’s middle managers in the year 2020, and the CEO’s, senators and representatives in 2030. The overriding implication of these trends is that conventional assumptions about students, the collegiate experience, learning, teaching, and assessment will not serve higher education well in the 21st century. These trends require teachers to re-examine and transform the current assumptions about the ways we engage students in the educational process. This re-examination must carefully scrutinize beliefs about who our students are, how they learn, their level of preparation, other demands being made on their time and attention such as family and work. Their educational and occupational goals must also be taken into consideration as well as their current beliefs about the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. The learning/teaching process and how it can best be facilitated must be evaluated, and how we can create and sustain significant educational communities. Similarly, the re-examination must also include serious exploration of ways to eliminate the current organizational split of academic and student affairs.

The history of American higher education has been one of an ever growing and diversifying group of participants. Until the nineteenth century, students and teachers were overwhelmingly white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males from middle-to-upper-class families. During the nineteenth century, colleges and universities began to admit men of less affluent means and some women. Black and women’s colleges emerged after the Civil War. In the early twentieth century, urban universities began to admit new immigrants. This prompted a transformation of the curriculum: the creation of general education courses to teach these bright young men the traditional preparatory school curriculum quickly.

Between 1920 and 1930, earned bachelor’s degrees increased from 48,622 to 122,484, or two and one-half times — the fastest decade of growth in the twentieth century, except for the fifties. Much of this growth came from women. In 1920, 16,642 women earned BAs; in 1930, 49,869, almost three times as many. In 1920, 31,980 men earned BAs; in 1930, it was 73,615, almost two and one-third as many. In 1930, one and one-half times as many men as women earned the BA. In 1900 the ratio had been 4.23 men to 1 woman. It was not until 1970 that this ratio was reduced to 1.32.

The majority of the feminization of the classroom occurred by 1930. However, society’s view of educated women as wives and mothers responsible for managing the home did not change significantly until the 1970s. The separate and unequal division of gender roles was reflected in higher education through different curricular for men and women, and through different faculty attitudes and expectation. World War II briefly expanded options for women. Women enrolled in more science courses and began medical school. Arguments against professional training for women resurfaced. In the 1950s and 1960s, more and more women graduates worked for most or much of their adult lives. Although most male professions remained closed, the expanding economy accommodated larger numbers of women.

The civil rights movements, in which many women participated, gave importance to women’s demands for greater equality. Many well-known African-American and white women activists denounced the subordinate role of women in civil rights and free speech. The impact of the women’s movement on campuses took various forms, such as the formulation of new regulations to decrease discrimination against women faculty and staff, the growth of women’s athletics, and the development of women’s centers providing many services. By the end of the 1970s, woman’s rights and women’s difference had a stronger footing in the academy than ever before.

It was not until the 1960s that the number and percentage of African-Americans, increased significantly. Responding to the civil rights movement, higher education opened its doors wider. In 1965, there were 274,000 African-Americans enrolled in institutions of higher education in both undergraduate and graduate programs, 4.8% of the total enrollment of 5,675,000. In 1970, this rose to 522,000, or 7%. By 1976, the increase mounted to 848,000, or 9.8%, and it peaked in 1980 at 1,107,000, or 10.2%.

On American campuses, the experience of increased racial and ethnic diversity is barely twenty years old. Until most recently, it was limited to the increased presence of African-Americans on white campuses. It was the community colleges that saw the greatest influx of minority students and adapted the most to their needs.

Teachers today face changes in the educational system as compared to fifty years ago with regard to minority students, who are bilingual and often not very fluent in English. Linguistic programs of today are properly designed and implemented, and offer a language-rich environment with high expectations for every child, in a climate of cross-cultural respect. Linguistic minority students are stimulated in their use of English, while being encouraged to value and employ their home language as well.

This bilingual process in schools raises ethical issues for teachers. Some have strongly argued against bilingual education and have been influential in reinforcing public antipathy towards the use of bilingual classes as an instructional medium. Advocates of bilingual programs see this as a denial of both linguistic and educational rights.

There is too much at stake for students, especially children, educational and person development to brush these contradictions aside. Teachers have an ethical responsibility to address and clarify the contradictions both for academic audiences and for the general public. The adversarial nature of the debate on bilingual education has hurt children and denied many others an opportunity to develop fluent bilingual and biliteracy skills. The outstanding results produced by two-way bilingual immersion programs suggest that this option is worth pursuing vigorously.

This is the kind of approach schools and companies must take to increase minority enrollment. It’s important to provide financial aid to minority students, but some also need coaching when they apply and tutoring and career counseling after they’re admitted. Business schools must do a better job of reaching out early to high school and college students and demystifying the process to encourage minority enrollment. Many minorities don’t think they have a shot at a top program even though they might be qualified in many respects. Though companies are pouring thousands of dollars into scholarships for minority students, the outlook isn’t encouraging. The share of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans taking the GMAT has remained flat in recent years, at about 8% and 5%, respectively.

Teacher must also come to grips with the longer-term challenge that minorities typically don’t regard business as their best career route and are more inclined to consider law, medicine, engineering and other fields. A study by Boston Consulting Group estimates that only 7% of students in what it considers the top 20 M.B.A. programs are blacks, Hispanics or Native Americans, compared with 15% at the best medical schools and 14% at the major law schools. Minority students also want to see other students and professors who look like them on the campuses. Minority faculty members are in even shorter supply than students. AACSB, the accrediting group, estimates that only 3% of full-time business-school faculty members are black and 2% are Hispanic.

The Latino population of the United States at over 35 million people is now larger than the entire Canadian population. In just two generations, the United States will have the second largest number of Latinos in the world, after Mexico. Teachers face this evolution as education moves forth with this unprecedented transformation in the history of the United States. Teachers must discover new findings will help broaden understanding, among scholars and policy makers, about the profound demographic and cultural changes taking place in their communities.

If the current participation rates continue, the pool of science and engineering baccalaureates is projected to decrease significantly. However, the percentage of students from minority groups will increase. As a result, the graduate school population should change dramatically over the next two decades. Although percentages of minority engineering baccalaureates will increase minorities will still be underrepresented in graduate schools. Nationally, women begin graduate school at the same rate as men, but the percentage of women in scientific careers is significantly less than that of men. Within a given field, there is a direct correlation between the way males and females support themselves and the time required to attain the Ph.D. degree. Females of all races and black men have less financial aid available, and so have less opportunity to devote full time to their studies.

In graduate school, the student begins to function as an independent scientist. Ideally, the faculty advisor helps the student to formulate, evaluate, execute, and defend the research problem. However, there must be opportunities for discussing future career plans and relating them to current interests and activities. Much stress in graduate school comes from the students’ misunderstanding of this relationship. It is important for women and minorities to understand the connection between their career aspirations and their graduate school interactions in order to ensure that they achieve their full potential. Teachers and educators of the present and future will encounter this dilemma.

In the past, diversity was a predicament to avoid rather than a goal to embrace in schools throughout the nation. Women, blacks and other minorities were excluded.

Over the last 50 years, much has changed. Women students now outnumber men, Asian-Americans and Hispanics have been embraced both in the classroom and in the workforce. But gains do not always mean acceptance, and diversity is still a central concern among employees and students.

The increasing heterogeneity of the undergraduate student bodies on most college and university campuses will require far more targeted educational interventions than we now have. Using the same methods of delivering education as it has been offered it in the past is unlikely to be productive. What may be educationally effective for some students may not be so effective for other kinds of students. The first step is to understand and accept who our students are and then move to provide instructional experiences in and outside the classroom tailored to meet those students’ learning needs.

Teachers and students learning together implies transforming assumptions about instructional effectiveness, the role of teaching in faculty life, and the role of educator in student affairs. Instead of focusing strictly on outcomes, assessment helps create the conditions for learning. As our understanding of effective teaching becomes increasingly complex, teachers will need opportunities for dialogue about teaching and rewards for focusing on teaching. Reward systems may have to be re-examined and restructured to promote the design and implementation of new curricular initiatives. Dialogue among teachers and student affairs professionals on effective collaboration in promoting student learning will be essential.

A systemic change in current academic and institutional cultures will be needed.

The trends also imply transforming assumptions about students’ role in the campus community. Because many of tomorrow’s students will be adults who balance educational goals with family and professional priorities, collaboratively developing flexible enrollment, advising, and learning options with them will be necessary. Mutually determining appropriate counseling opportunities may be needed given the diversity of prior experiences and multiple roles students bring to campus. Colleges and universities will have to be more open to differences, embracing multiple perspectives in program content, educational practice, and campus service options. This main change from educational practice determined solely by faculty and staff to a joint partnership in which teaching and learning takes advantage of the expertise, experience, and intellectual curiosity of teachers and students.

The impact of the Internet has also dramatically changed the ethical responsibilities of teachers as compared to fifty years ago. Academic entrepreneurs will drive the transformative phenomenon of attending classes online and receiving degrees via online universities. This will surely challenge background assumptions, and bring new possibilities into being. The new challenge and opportunity, then, is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit toward creating new learning environments, and a spirit that will use the unique capabilities of the Web to leverage the natural ways that humans learn.

Today’s youth, growing up digital, are very different from the traditional student of fifty years ago. Four years ago, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center started hiring 15-year-olds as researchers. The students were given two jobs, one to design the “work scope” of the future and another in which they were to design the school or “learningscape” of the future. The results were that the attention span of the teens at parallels that of top managers, who operate in a world of fast context-switching. These results found that the short attention spans of today’s teenagers may turn out to be far from dysfunctional for future work worlds. Although the short attention span may not be a new problem, current and future teachers will have to deal with a curriculum that is rapidly becoming virtual.

Teachers will have to deal with literacy and how it is evolving. Literacy today involves not only text, but also image and screen literacy. The ability to “read” multimedia texts and to feel comfortable and confident in doing so will be a new task for teachers. In the same way, the World Wide Web will be a transformative medium, maybe as important as electricity. The Internet began as a research project by the United States Department of Defense in the late 1960s, then to the innovations of those at the Center for European Nuclear Research in the late 1980s, followed by rapid adoption in the mid- and late-1990s. This brought out a new way to look up information, and perform research, and now attend class.

A positive implication for teachers now is that second aspect of the Web is that it honors the notion of multiple intelligences. This past century’s concept of “literacy” grew out of a belief in text. The typewriter was a tool for writers but a bad one for other creative activities such as sketching, painting, notating music, and mathematics. The typewriter benefited only one kind of intelligence. However, with the Internet, multiple forms of intelligence, even those abstract, textual, visual, musical, and social are suitable.

Teachers now have a chance to construct a medium that enables all students, young and old, to become engaged in their ideal way of learning. The Internet can assist teachers in making the connection between a medium and how a particular student learns. Another impact of the Internet on teachers is that it leverages the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few. This means that students all over the world can be linked together by one system. Students in a different country can chat online, perform research at distant libraries and have access to millions of more materials than those available at their local library. The negative implications of this on teachers is that it will become harder to detect cheating and plagiarism, with the wide abundance of written materials available online. It will also become harder for teachers to assign creative topics that have not been already extensively researched and written, and available in a concise format online.

The new literacy, beyond text and image, is one of information navigation. Students of the literacy of tomorrow must have the ability to be their own personal reference librarian. Teachers will have to instruct students on how to navigate through confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable doing so. This navigation will be the main form of literacy for the 21st century. The majority of teachers today themselves experienced formal learning in an authority-based, lecture-oriented school. Now, with incredible amounts of information available through the Internet, they must teach a new kind of learning. This new type of learning will be discovery based, as students are constantly discovering new things as they browse through the Internet.

Surfing the Internet will fuse learning and entertainment, creating a more pleasurable atmosphere for learning. Teachers will not face too many problems with discovery-based learning. Instead, those problems will involve forms of reasoning. Traditionally, reasoning in the classroom has been concerned with the deductive and abstract. However, students working with digital media suggests “bricolage” more than abstract logic. Bricolage was a concept studied by Claude Levi-Strauss more than a generation ago that relates to the concrete ability to find an object, tool or document and use it to build something. Judgment is inherently critical to becoming an effective digital student. With the Internet, the vast scope and variety of resources confuses the non-digital learner.

The learning process with the Internet, by young people has been quite different from the process in times past. The traditional generation is unwilling to try new things unless or until they already know how to use them. For example, if they don’t know how to use some appliance or software, the instinct is to reach for a manual or take a course or call up an expert. Today’s students get on the Internet and link, or watch how other people are doing things, and then try it themselves. This tendency toward “action” brings us back into the same loop in which navigation, discovery, and judgment all come into play. Learning becomes situated in action and it becomes as much social as cognitive, it is concrete rather than abstract, and it becomes intertwined with judgment and exploration.

In this way, the Internet becomes not only an informational and social resource but a learning medium where understandings are socially constructed and shared. In that medium, learning becomes a part of action and knowledge creation. For student affairs professionals, the emergence of distance learning, such as online courses, has particularly significant implications. The characteristics of students, their needs, and their learning styles that have defined traditional academic and student services’ models are changing.

The students of the future represent a dramatic contrast and a formidable challenge.

They come from vastly different backgrounds, with vastly different learning needs and goals, pursue a college degree significantly different from that of traditional students, and will earn their degrees on a “virtual” campus. Such an environment will require re-evaluation of traditional student affairs activities and services as they relate to this student-body. How student affairs professionals respond to the challenges of serving students in a virtual world may well define the profession’s future.

All professionals face complex ethical issues, for which there are often no pre-determined rules. Some are intrinsic to the profession, arising from the distinctive values it serves. Others are shared with other professionals. Hiring a professional is thus hiring their values. The preparation of teachers to resolve ethical issues should take account of the kinds of issues which trouble practicing teachers as well as sensitizing them to the ethical features of their work. This paper has outlined the kinds of issues teachers face involving ethically challenging situations, and some of the ethical features of professional situations to which their attention should be drawn.

Because part of the role of the teacher is to teach students to be better at moral reasoning teachers need to be good at it themselves, as well as arriving at good decisions. Teachers bring to their task both strengths and weaknesses. Many of the weaknesses they display in resolving ethical dilemmas can be dealt with outside the school — “in pre-service education or during an internship period. Others require the fostering of an ethical climate in schools and the provision of occasions for the discussion of ethical matters with fellow teachers.

In addition to these matters often raised spontaneously by teachers, there are a number of standard issues discussed in the literature on professional ethics or in that on education. Teachers also face matters of honesty and candor. Honesty in the use of time, telephones, stationery and equipment is fairly easy. Candor over a students chances, or a teacher’s lack of competence to teach what is demanded of them is harder to display. There are also matters of competence and diligence. Two problems which are common are instructions to teachers to teach material they know little about, and the allocation of enough time to keeping up-to-date.

The teachers of today face many obligations to the profession, such as its competence, its advancement and development, for its ethical standards, and for its self-control. They face social responsibilities, including political action for education, education of the community, dealing with prejudice, and the range of issues that have been dealt with in philosophy of education literature. Extra-curricular obligations to students, and the limits of those responsibilities are also some of the problems. Furthermore, teachers are burdened with maintaining relations with parents, such as dealing with complaints, working with parents to free students from their parents’ ideologies, and issues of control. Finally, teachers must resolve conflicts of interest, including tutoring their own students, students at the school, and others.

There is a strong case for including professional ethics in the core of the pre-service education of teachers. But, contrary to recent political practice, a strong case is not decisive. Finally, the changing characteristics of students and what we know about how, when, and where they learn requires re-examination of assumptions underlying our current organizational structures and lines of administrative communication and cooperation. The available evidence clearly indicates that colleges and universities are not currently organized in ways that promote optimal student learning. The growing number of students are enrolled part-time, clearly shows the need to maximize the opportunities colleges and universities have for enhancing students’ learning. Service learning, internships, community service, and employment offer important opportunities to link students’ out-of-class lives and experiences with what they are studying and learning in more formal instructional settings.

Trends in learning and teaching clearly portend significant changes for the 21st century, and the directions of change are evident. However, it is less obvious how educators might go about changing long-standing assumptions, acquire new knowledge about diverse students and their learning, and develop new practices based on both. The ethical responsibilities of teachers have undoubtedly undergone dramatic changes over the past fifty years, reflecting the changes in our culture today. As contemporary society becomes increasingly diverse and complex, so does the process of preparing young people for life as independent thinkers, productive citizens, and future leaders


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Palmer, P.J. (1997, November/December). The heart of a teacher: Identity and integrity in teaching. Change, 15-21.

Pometto, A. (2003). Ethics Across the Curriculum: A Practice-Based Approach.

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Terenzini, P.T., & Pascarella, E.T. (1991). Twenty years of research on college students: Lessons for future research. Research in Higher Education, 32, 83-92.

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Ethical Changes in the Classroom over the past 50 years

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