Learning and Development Ethics: Article 1 of 9

Written by Dr Hannes Nel, D. Com; D. Phil

The problem with unethical behaviour is not just that it damages the image of the learning institution or quality assurance body, but rather that it can easily become a national trend, almost a culture and that it can reduce the country to yet another anarchy run by war lords and criminals. Unethical behaviour affects not only the guilty people but a multitude of people around them.

Leaders on all levels in learning do not seem to understand the dire consequences of their greed. People are often really good at rationalising their unethical behaviour. They do not understand that it is not the excuse for the unethical behaviour that is doing the damage but rather the criminal act.

I will discuss the following issues related to ethical behavior in the provision of learning, broken down into 9 weekly articles, starting with this one.

  1. If you are corrupt you are already in trouble.
  2. The consequences of unethical behaviour are never good.
  3. When is unethical behaviour acceptable?
  4. Honour your promises and commitments.
  5. Do your work and learning in the open.
  6. Eliminate offensive words and comments from your vocabulary.
  7. Say no to negativity.
  8. Stop blaming others for things that go wrong.
  9. Be truthful.
  10. Embrace racial, cultural and creative diversity.
  11. Don’t confuse “cutting corners” with efficiency.
  12. Know your job – inside and out.
  13. Recognize others’ efforts, contributions, and ethical behaviour.
  14. Go the extra mile.
  15. Practice patience, understanding and empathy.
  16. Talk with people, not at them.
  17. Make it safe to do work and learn with you.
  18. Accept that people sometimes make mistakes.
  19. Make it safe to be ethical.

In closing, we are all tired of people writing and talking while almost nothing is done to change things for the better. The problem is, when we no longer at least talk we might give up entirely and then we will be in really serious trouble. People get used to bad circumstances and once they have adapted they either learn how to gain from the bad situation or they just stop caring. Let’s not give up. You are most welcome to respond to the articles.

Continue Reading

When does a qualification have depth?

It stands to reason that any qualification needs to have sufficient depth to ensure real learning on the level of the qualification. It, however, is not always clear what is meant by “depth”. This is how I see it and I would really appreciate it if you could add on to my flights of imagination.

A qualification shows depth when the contents of the learning programme are on an acceptable academic level and encourages the students to think cognitively. All learning consists of three main elements, namely theoretical knowledge; philosophy; and skills, or practical work. In the case of occupational and vocational learning the emphasis is more on acquiring skills than on theory and philosophy, although some theory and a little philosophy is mostly necessary in order to achieve at least foundational competence. In the case of academic learning the emphasis falls on theory and philosophy, although most academic learning also includes acquiring certain skills, in some cases rather specialised skills.

The title of the qualifications does not indicate the depth of the learning content. Take flower arranging as an example. You can have an occupational certificate in flower arranging, but also a bachelor’s degree or even a doctoral thesis on the same topic.

The qualification should be coherent. This means that the different modules or subjects included in a qualification should support and complement one another. In this manner students are given a good measure of depth in the purpose of the qualification. It also simplifies the learning process because what students learn in one module or subject provides theory that will help the student understand the contents and rationale behind other subjects.

The qualification should be well-structured. Subjects should progressively become more “difficult” as the student progresses from one academic year to the next. This means that first year subjects should prepare the students for second year subjects and so on until the final year.

The assessment should test the students’ knowledge and, perhaps, skills, at the right level. Some claim that multiple-choice questions only test low level cognitive skills. This is most certainly not the case. Multiple-choice questions, like most other types of exam questions, can be asked in such a way that they test comprehension and not just content. In fact, one can tests many elements of practical work by means of written or e-learning exams.

In closing, there might well be a multitude of other factors determining the depth of a qualification. Therefore it is important to specify what you mean when you claim that a qualification lacks depth.

Continue Reading