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Publication: Delta Pi Epsilon Journal
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 24181
ISSN: 00118052
Journal code: DPEJ


This article discusses four confirmatory studies designed to corroborate findings from prior developmental research which yielded statistically significant improvements in student moral reasoning when specific instructional strategies and content materials were utilized in non-ethics business courses by instructors not formally trained in business ethics. The specific intervention strategies and instructional materials utilized in the studies to increase levels of student moral reasoning were developed through several iterations of research studies that were carried out over a four-year period at a Midwestern university. The measurement of moral reasoning used in all of the research studies is the revised version of the Defining Issues Test, the DIT-2 (Rest, Narvaez, Bebeau, & Thoma, 1999). Originally funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, the most recent series of studies reported in this article were funded by a generous grant from the Delta Pi Epsilon Research Foundation, Inc.

Need for the Study

While business schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) must meet ethics training expectations delineated by Assurance of Learning Standard 15: Management of Curricula ("Eligibility Procedures," 2007), AACSB does not specify any courses or program template for delivering ethics and corporate social responsibility training to students. However, AACSB does proffer the notion that business faculty - not faculty from outside the business school - should teach these concepts to undergraduate and MBA students. As stated in the AACSB study document, Ethics Education in Business Schools (AACSB International, 2004),

Faculty involvement is an important indicator of the salience of issues in academic environments. Relegation of ethical issues to a small fraction of the faculty or to those perceived as having low status vitiates the power of the educational experience. Also, in an environment where concern over ethical issues has risen sharply, lack of business school faculty involvement may indicate a disconnection between the academic experience and the real world. If ethics content is taught primarily by faculty from outside the business school, questions should be raised as to what is done to convey the relevance of ethics in business practice, (p. 19)

Because "business ethics" and "corporate social responsibility" are not business disciplines in the traditional sense, and because many business professors do not feel themselves sufficiently trained to teach such courses (see Bok, 1988; Klein, 1998; Norman, 2004), business schools are left to grapple with the conundrum of how to teach business ethics to all students by using a large percentage of regular business school faculty. Teaching business ethics throughout the core curriculum in delineated integrative programs has proved problematic for some business schools because the longevity of these programs is limited by faculty turnover and new faculty members' unwillingness to assume responsibility for teaching outside of their areas of specialization (Wharton School professor, Tomas W. Dunfee, personal communication May 27, 2004).

The problem focused on in this research has been to identify non-intrusive classroom instructional methods that can be effectively used by foundational business course instructors (as opposed to formally trained ethics instructors) to positively affect levels of moral reasoning of business students. Instructional methods are "non-intrusive" in the sense that the classroom interventions are reasonably simple to integrate into an instructor's course plan without causing a major displacement of the content that is normally taught in the course, nor requiring special instructor training in ethical theory.

Through several iterations in this series of research studies, the researcher has been successful in developing teaching materials and a flexible classroom protocol of instruction that has yielded statistically significant increases in student moral reasoning, as measured by the DIT-2. The four most recent studies reported in this article were undertaken in an attempt to replicate the positive increases in moral reasoning found in the developmental stage of this research in order to corroborate and confirm the validity of the intervention methodology.

Review of Related Literature

This section will first discuss prior research in the areas of cognitive moral development and assessment. It will then present a review of several studies relevant to this area of business ethics education research.

Moral Development Research

The best-known model of moral judgment is Kohlberg's (1969, 1981) model, which primarily addresses the formal structures (stages) of ethical development in the cognitive developmental process. Kohlberg focused on ethics in relation to society (i.e., laws, roles, institutions, and general practices) instead of personal, face-to-face relationships that occur in particular, everyday dealings with people - that is, on macro morality instead of micro morality (Rest et al., 1999). Kohlberg's emphasis was on "right" as a concept of "justice" rather than "good" based on individual standards of personal perfection, virtue, or theology. Kohlberg's six stages of moral development can be characterized as follows (Jeffrey, 1993, p. 87):

1. Punishment and obethence orientation.

2. Na´ve instrumental hedonism.

3. Good-boy or good-girl morality of maintaining good relations, approval of others.

4. Authority maintaining morality.

5. Morality of contract, of individual rights, and democratically accepted law.

6. Morality of individual principles of conscience.

Rest's (1979) theory of cognitive moral development recognizes Kohlberg's developmental levels as more akin to schemata than to stages. Rest's schema theory conceptualizes cognitive moral developmental reasoning as an encompassing concept-driven ways of thinking based on experience. Cognitive moral development will increase the number of schemata available for use in solving a dilemma while at the same time increasing the level at which each successive schema is developed; however, the newer, more advanced schema doesn't necessarily usurp all previous lower-level schemata. Given the right set of circumstances, an individual may utilize a previous schema to process a dilemma (Restetal., 1999).

Moral reasoning is only one part of a model of ethical behavior that Rest called the Four-Component Model (1979). The basic idea behind the four component model is that four inner psychological processes together give rise to outwardly observable behavior. Moral sensitivity involves the ability to interpret a situation, imagining cause-effect chains of event, and awareness that there is a moral problem when it exists. Moral judgment has to do with an individual's capabilities for judging which action would be most justifiable in a moral sense. Moral motivation involves the individual's commitment and willingness to take the morally correct course of action, value moral values over other values, and take personal responsibility for the moral outcomes of one's decision. Moral character involves persisting in a moral task, having courage to consistently adhere to the morally correct decisions, overcoming fatigue and temptations, and implementing subroutines that serve a moral goal (Rest et al., 1999).

Moral Development Assessment

Rest (1986) devised a paper-and-pencil instrument to measure moral reasoning, the Defining Issues Test (DIT). The DIT is the most widely used instrument for this purpose and the best documented in terms of reliability and validity . Based on the notion that moral judgment involves distinctive ways of defining social moral dilemmas and evaluating crucial issues in them (Rest, 1979), the DIT presents participants with moral dilemmas. Each dilemma is followed by items for the participant to consider in solving the dilemma. The participant rates and ranks the importance of each item and chooses a course of action to resolve the dilemma. Ratings and rankings are used to derive a participant's score. The most used index of the DIT has been the principled reasoning or P score. Rest believed that the P score was a reliable index of moral development across the six theoretical stages (Rest, 1979).

The new version of the DIT, known as the DIT-2 (Rest et al., 1999), reflects several improvements. The DIT-2 contains moral dilemmas that are more up to date, whereas the original DIT contained dilemmas related to the war in Vietnam and culturally antiquated terms such as "Oriental" to refer to individuals of Asian descent. The DIT-2 is also shorter, consisting of five dilemmas instead of six. Instructions for completing the DIT-2 have been improved, and the instrument purges fewer subjects for bogus data. The new N2 index score has a slightly better Cronbach's alpha internal reliability, and the DIT-2 is slightly more powerful on validity criteria. Based on a 1995 composite sample (n = 932), the Cronbach's alpha for the P index was 0.78, whereas for the N2 Index it was 0.83 (Rest et al., 1999). Cronbach's alpha of at least a .7 is valid for research purposes.

The present study reports both the post-conventional (P) index and the N2 index; both are measures of moral reasoning.

While moral behavior is not dictated by one's sensitivity to a moral dilemma or even by one's choice of the correct moral decision, moral behavior has been shown to correspond closely to moral judgment. A significant number of research studies relating to moral behavior based on Kohlberg 's and Rest's methods of assessment (Blasi, 1980; Rest, 1986) found that moral behavior was closely correlated to moral decision making. As reported by Rest (1986), "[S]ince we observe a consistent pattern of significant relationships between DIT scores and the behavior measures, it seems safe to conclude that generally there is a link between moral judgment and behavior" (p. 135).

Moral Education Research In Business

While descriptive studies about levels of moral reasoning among students number in the thousands, the number of studies that deal with evaluations of effectiveness of ethics education interventions for business students is considerably lower.. Rest cited numerous intervention methods that were designed as educational programs with the objective of increasing student moral reasoning (Rest et al., 1999). These interventions include elements of lecture, guest-speaking appearances, video exemplars, case analyses using an ethical decision-making framework, philosophic studies of ethical theory, and reflective analysis.

Utilizing a class in ethics and professionalism to introduce an array of ethical instructional interventions ranging from studies in ethical reasoning to analyses of congressional investigations, Armstrong (1993) reported a statistically significant difference in changes in DIT post-conventional (P) scores among students who took the course over those in a control group that did not. Armstrong (1993) also reported that students who had taken previous classes in ethics (as reported by the students) demonstrated increased levels of moral-reasoning maturation.

Green and Weber (1997) assessed the levels of moral reasoning in accounting and other business majors both before and after they had completed an auditing course which emphasized the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. Moral reasoning levels were assessed separately by both authors utilizing the Abbreviated Scoring Guide based on Kohlberg's scoring method (Weber, 1991). They found no differences in ethical development between junior accounting majors and other junior-level business majors. They did, however, find significant differences between senior-level accounting and non-accounting students' levels of moral development. The primary difference appeared to be related to the auditing course taken by the senior accounting students (Green & Weber, 1997).

Bigel (2002) demonstrated through the use of the similar learning activities (lecture, case analysis and the study of ethical theory) that a course in business ethics had a positive effect on students' moral development, particularly with undergraduates. Dellaportasa, Cooperb, and Leungc (2006) studied the moral judgment levels of 97 accounting students over a one-year period using the DIT and a context-specific instrument developed by Welton (Welton, LaGrone, & Davis, 1994). DIT test scores were significantly higher on the DIT than scores on the Welton instrument suggesting that accounting students used higher levels of moral reasoning in resolving hypothetical social dilemmas and lower levels of moral reasoning in resolving context-specific dilemmas.

Izzo, Langford, and Vitell (2006) used an experimental design "interactive" group pedagogical approach with two groups of real estate license candidates to engage in discussions about ethical situations in real estate. The two groups were tested in terms of both their general level of cognitive moral development using the DIT, and their industry-specific level of moral development using the real estate survey (RES). Although a pretest indicated that there was no significant difference in levels of cognitive moral development between the control and treatment groups, there was a significant difference between the two groups in terms of both DIT and RES after the completion of the interactive training session.


Consistent with the findings from many of these studies and after reviewing the top U.S. business schools' instructional practices for business ethics education, the researcher engaged in the task of developing an instructional protocol and materials that could, when properly sequenced and integrated into undergraduate non-ethics business content courses taught by professors not formally trained in ethical reasoning pedagogy, increase levels of student moral reasoning as measured by the revised version of the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2). This section will first present an overview of the five semesters of studies (16 studies) that took place during the developmental stage of the protocol and materials. Next, the section will present the findings from the most recent set of studies used to confirm findings of effectiveness of the protocol and instructional materials determined during the developmental stage of the research.

Intervention Development Research Studies

Each study in this developmental stage of the research involved the continuing attempt to refine the instructional methodology and materials (interventions) in a way that non-ethics business course instructors could simply and effectively integrate the methodology into their courses in order to teach ethical decisionmaking theory and engage undergraduate business students in reflective analysis to improve their moral reasoning as measured by the revised version of the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2) (Rest et al., 1999). The methods employed in this research included a combination of assigned readings of essays in ethical philosophical theory and an ethical decision-making framework, lecture and classroom discussions to clarify the essays (limited to a single class period), and reflective case analyses using an ethical decision-making framework. Cases relevant to each specific course discipline chosen by each instructor served as a basis for applying the ethical decision-making framework.

All iterations of studies in this research involved the nonequivalent control group quasi-experimental design (Campbell & Stanley, 1963) which can be used when true randomization of subjects and extraneous variables cannot be achieved. The selection of subjects based solely on their self-selection to the different courses did not involve random assignment. However, pretest P-score comparisons showed that the groups were similar. According to Campbell and Stanley (1963), comparable pretest scores help confirm internal validity:

The more similar the experimental and control groups are in their recruitment, and the more this similarity is confirmed by the pretest, the more effective this control becomes. Assuming that these desiderata are approximated for internal validity, we can regard the design as controlling the effects of history, maturation, testing, and instrumentation, (pp. 217-218)

Assessment of improvements in moral reasoning was based on pretest - posttest comparisons of two key indicators on the revised version of the Defining Issues Test (DIT-2): the post-conventional P score and the new N2 score. After each study was completed, the researcher made adjustments and refinements to the instructional methodology (intervention) based on findings from each previous study and debriefings of student participants and course instructors. Convenience samples used for each study consisted of students in a range of undergraduate core business courses composed of foundation business disciplines at a mid-sized Midwestern university.

To detail each of the five preceding semesters of developmental research, which included 16 different studies and several variations of the interventions and instructional materials used, is beyond the scope of this article. A brief summary is provided here, however. The interventions consisted of some variation of all of the following:

* The reading assignments explicating commonly taught Western ethical theories (deontology, teleology, virtue theory, and social conventions and mores) and a step-by-step ethical decision-making framework began with a 33-page essay used by permission from Babson College (Livingstone, 2003). The length of the essay proved problematic for instructors to easily integrate into core business courses focused primarily on other disciplines (such as accounting, management, marketing, business communication, etc.). Subsequently, the researcher condensed similar concepts into two seven-page essays that were used throughout the rest of the iterations.

* The researcher prepared a PowerPoint lecture and accompanying lecture notes and handouts for instructors to use in their courses to further explicate the ethical theories and the ethical decision-making steps in the framework presented in the essays.

* Cases related to each content area, but also containing ethical elements or dilemmas, were selected by each instructor with the help of the researcher.

* Instructors chose how they would have their students engage in reflective case analyses. Some instructors required the recommended written reflective analyses while others used interactive group discussions without an individual writing requirement.

* The researcher provided a 20-question quiz for instructors to use to motivate students to study and to assess student understanding of the essays, but instructors were free to utilize it as they saw fit.

* Early on in the research it was determined that course grades directly related to the ethical reasoning component were critical to motivate students to engage the material. Grading weights for the ethical components of their courses varied by instructor.

As the methodology and materials for the intervention were adjusted throughout the developmental stage of this research, consistent positive increases in student moral reasoning were finally realized. The research demonstrated that faculty members who are not specialists in business ethics can affect positive increases in student moral reasoning (as measured by the DIT-2) in non-ethics business courses. While these positive results can be obtained through a reasonably simple integration process by instructors into their core business courses, significant time and effort must be invested in case-based moral decision making by the instructor and the students, and grade incentives for students to engage the use of an ethical decision-making framework are required. The next section discusses the results of the most recent confirmatory studies.


Confirmatory Research Studies

The confirmatory studies using a pretest-posttest design were conducted in four different business courses taught by four different business professors at the same Midwest university. All instructors used the materials and instructional protocol developed throughout this research - with some degree of variation - in their respective undergraduate courses. By design, the ability of vary the instructional delivery of the ethics information was needed in order to ensure that the professor had the ability to adapt the instructional materials and delivery to their respective course content and schedules. Convenience samples consisting to two class sections each in buyer behavior, management and organizational behavior, cost accounting, and business and society were used in the research. All samples yielded statistically significant posttest increases in student moral reasoning as measured by the DIT-2.

Buyer Behavior Course: Methods and Results

The buyer behavior course is an undergraduate marketing course available to all business students; however, mostly juniors and seniors take the course. While enrollments for the two sections exceeded 50 students, only 30 DIT pretest-posttest protocols were acceptable for inclusion in the sample. This reduced sample size was a result of purged protocols for bogus responses or non-completers of the posttest. There were 19 females and 1 1 males in the sample. Following the DIT-2 pretest, the professor assigned for study the two essays prepared by the researcher to explicate ethical theory and the ethical decision-making framework, and then discussed the essays in class using the PowerPoint lecture and notes. Students were informed that they would apply the ethical framework to several cases during the semester and that they would be tested on this framework the day after the presentation. The 20-question quiz developed for this intervention was given and counted as 4% of the students' final grades. A week after the test, the students applied the ethical framework to a short video case about stealth marketing in a classroom discussion. Contrary to previous instructions about application of the ethical decision-making framework, this was the only application of the framework throughout the course. No reflective writing was required in this case analysis. Instead, using a pedagogical approach similar to the "interactive" approach described previously (Izzo et al., 2006), the marketing professor divided the class into two groups and asked them to apply the ethical framework to the issue of stealth marketing while using the ethical decision-making framework.

An independent samples t-test using the pretest P and N2 scores of the two undergraduate buyer behavior classes (^1 = 19, n2 = 11) established that there were no differences in the mean pretest scores, and because both classes were taught in exactly the same way, the two samples were combined and treated as a single sample (n = 30). Paired samples t-test results (see Table 1) and effect size calculations showed a statistically significant increase of medium effect size in the N2 scores (pretest = 27.2396, posttest = 32.4043), t(29) = -2.555, ? < .05, twotailed, r = 0.428653. The paired samples t-test results and effect size calculations for the P score, however, showed no statistically significant increase (pretest = 28.5855, posttest = 30.8389), t(29) = -.972, ? < .05, two-tailed.

While the P scores did not show a statistically significant increase in this case, there was an 8% increase in P scores (compared to a 19% increase in N2). According to Thoma, one of the developers of the new form of the DIT, "N2 is more sensitive to change . . . , whereas P scores seem to be more strongly related to political variables (personal communication, Steve Thoma, August 27, 2009). This would seem to indicate that the intervention methodology used by the marketing professor in the buyer behavior class had a slight positive effect on student moral reasoning.

Management and Organizational Behavior Course: Methods and Results

Management and organizational behavior is a core course required for all business majors. For most students, it is their first management course and thus their first opportunity to study basic management principles. While enrollments for the two sections exceeded 60 students, only 36 DIT pretest-posttest protocols were acceptable for inclusion in the sample because of purged protocols for bogus responses or non-completers of the posttest. The sample consisted of 20 females and 16 males, all juniors and seniors. Following the DIT-2 pretest the instructor introduced the ethical content developed during this research in the fifth week of the semester and tied it in to a chapter in the text book used in the course (Daft, 2008). Students were assigned the essays on ethical theory and the ethical decision-making model, and were informed that they would be quizzed on the material in the next quiz. Approximately one and one-half class sessions were devoted to lecture and class discussion related to normal course material, and approximately one and one-half class sessions were devoted to the ethical decision-making content during that week. Following the reading assignment, the instructor used the provided PowerPoint lecture and class discussion to clarify the content of the essays.

Shortly after the ethical content was covered in the class, a 15 -question quiz which included only three of the 20 questions in the provided ethics quiz (over the essay material) was given to the students. Next, students were required to analyze three ethical case studies, applying the ethical decision-making framework. All of these case studies were taken from the Daft text (2008), which included an ethical decision making case at the end of each chapter. Each case presented three possible alternatives for the decision maker to consider. Students were encouraged to not only consider these alternatives, but to generate at least one alternative course of action as well. Furthermore, as part of the instructions for each case assignment, students were reminded that the alternative they selected was not as important as how well they explained the way they applied the decision-making framework to justify their decisions.

The first case analysis was worth 30 points and was completed as a team project in the 7th week, with each team responsible for delivering one written case analysis. The instructor admitted that she did not require the students to follow the decision-making steps recommended for use with each case (provided in the instructional materials as a handout), but since the results of the case analyses were less than the quality she expected, she did require the students to follow the handout in the two subsequent case analyses. The second case study was assigned as an individual written case analysis that was due during the 1 1 th week of the semester and was worth 40 points. The third case study, also an individual written case analysis, was due during the 15th week of the semester and was worth 30 points. During the class session in which the case analyses papers were returned to students, the instructor led a brief discussion about each case which included a discussion of the various alternative solutions recommended by students to resolve each dilemma. A total of 900 points were possible in the course; thus, the ethical reasoning assessments (103 points total) represented approximately 11% of total points in the course.

In analyzing the two groups of students' pretest scores (^1 = 14, n2 = 22), an independent samples t test showed that one class had statistically significant higher pretest P and N2 scores. Since the two groups of students were different as far as their collective levels of moral reasoning, they were treated as two separate samples. The first group's collective pretest P score (n = 14) was 22.000 compared to the second group's (n2 = 22) P score of 34.0334, t(33.349) = -2.585, ? < .05, two-tailed. And the first group's collective N2 score was 18.6904 compared to the second group's N2 score of 29.5357, t(33.092) = -2.512, ? < .05, two-tailed.

The smaller group n =14) with the lower pretest P and N2 scores demonstrated statistically significant increases in both the P and N2 posttest scores after the intervention. The posttest P score mean showed a statistically significant increase of almost 27% (posttest = 28.2857), t(13) = -2.328, ? < .05, two-tailed. The posttest N2 score also showed a statistically significant 60% increase to 29.9113, t( 1 3) = -4.732, ? < .05, two-tailed. The effect sizes for P and N2 were r = 0.542429 and r = 0.795414 respectively; both large effect sizes suggesting that the instructional intervention was useful in raising levels of student moral reasoning.

On the other hand, the second group of management and organizational behavior students (n2 = 22), while manifesting considerably higher pretest and posttest scores on both measures, showed no increase in moral developmental reasoning. The mean P score actually dropped slightly (P pretest = 34.0334, P posttest = 31.7089), while the N2 mean score increased only slightly (N2 pretest = 29.5357, N2 posttest = 31.1043). The negligible effect sizes for both posttest scores (P score r= 0.182167, N2 score r- 0.153529) and the slight decrease in the P score (-6.83%) compared to the slight increase in the N2 score (5.31%) would seem to indicate that there was not a change in the level of moral reasoning in this sample group. Interestingly, the instructor commented that this class of students was much more vocal than the smaller class about not seeing the relevance for ethics instruction in their management class.

Additional analysis of individual scores from the larger group that had higher scores showed that there were several students who had exceptionally high moral development scores compared to other studies of other undergraduate students throughout this research. In fact, where none of the participants in the smaller class (^1 = 14) had P or N2 scores beyond 38, six of the participants in the larger group (27%) had scores in excess of 40 on these two measures. The conclusions, below, will address interpretations of these outliers.

Cost Accounting Course: Methods and Results

An accounting professor who had used the ethical decision-making instructional materials in the developmental stage of this research volunteered to follow the most recent refinement of the instructional protocol by incorporating its instructional procedures and materials into two sections of his undergraduate cost accounting class. While enrollments for the two sections totaled 35 students, only 30 DIT pretest-posttest protocols (^1 = 17, n2 = 13) were acceptable for inclusion in the sample. This course is a required class for all accounting majors and may be taken by other business majors as an elective. The two classes contained predominantly accounting majors with three to four finance and business administration majors respectively. The students were all juniors or seniors; 10 were male and 20 were female. An independent samples t-test confirmed that there were no significant differences in levels of moral development between the two groups.

In both classes the DIT-2 was administered on the first day of class. The two essays prepared by the researcher to explicate ethical theory and the ethical decision-making framework were assigned for study. Each essay was subsequently discussed in class for approximately 35 minutes. The 20-question quiz designed for this research was administered after the classroom discussion of the ethical decision-making framework, and counted for 40 points out of 1,000 course grade points.

During the course of regular cost accounting instruction, the undergraduate cost accounting students were also assigned four cases containing ethical dilemmas and were informed that they would have to prepare a written reflection and analysis for each case using the steps delineated in the ethical decision-making framework. Short, single-page cases were selected from the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business Arthur Andersen Case Studies in Business Ethics website. The four cases were covered over a contiguous five-week period.

All cases were discussed briefly in class before students began their reflections. This was accomplished so that the students clearly understood the ethical dilemma in each case. The professor noted that several students asked for this clarification as they had problems identifying just one ethical dilemma. During the class in which the reflective case analyses were turned in, the case was discussed in more detail and solutions were evaluated. Student reflective analyses were graded on how well they followed the steps delineated in the decision-making framework and the logic and strength of their arguments. Their final decision did not impact their grade; just how well they supported their decision using the framework. Each of the four cases was worth 40 points. The quiz and ethics case analyses equaled 20% of each student's final grade. The DIT-2 posttest was administered on the last day of class.

An independent samples t-test using the pretest P and N2 scores of the two undergraduate cost accounting classes (n = 17, ? =13) established that there were no differences in the mean pretest scores, and since the professor taught both classes in exactly the same way, the two samples were combined and treated as a single sample (n = 30). As shown in Table 2, paired samples t-test results and effect size calculations showed medium effect size and statistically significant increases in the P scores (pretest = 30.7000, posttest = 36.5415), t(29) = -2.379, ? < .05, two-tailed, r = 0.404094. Additionally, paired samples t-test results and effect size calculations showed a statistically significant increase with a large effect size in N2 scores (pretest = 31.2015, posttest = 40.2511), t(29) = -5.601, ? < .05, two-tailed, r= 0.720860.

Business and Society Course: Methods and Results

The researcher taught two sections (n = 16, n2 = 23) of a business and society course during this stage of the research. The management course focused on

corporate social responsibility and ethical decision making, and used a combination of assigned readings, lecture, video programs, case analyses, and classroom discussion to accomplish course objectives. Students were predominantly juniors and seniors; 22 males and 16 females. The researcher followed the protocol designed for this research by assigning for study the two essays covering the ethical theory and the decision-making framework, followed by classroom lecture and discussion to explicate the framework in more detail. Students were tested on their knowledge of the framework after the lecture, and the test accounted for approximately 13% of the final course grade. Five case analyses accounted for 20% of the final course grade. Students' written reflections were graded based on the thoroughness of their arguments based on the steps in the framework, not on the final decisions taken.

The five cases were assigned from the course text book, Case Studies in Business Ethics (Gini, 2008). For each assigned case, a group of students was charged with the task of analyzing the case and presenting to the class their analysis of the situation as well as a defensible course of action based on the steps in the ethical decision-making framework. The presenting teams also conducted a class discussion to facilitate alternative points of view, and turned in a team-written reflective analysis. All other students not presenting were required to submit an individually prepared written case analysis utilizing the framework. At the end of the course the DIT-2 posttest was administered.

An independent samples t-test using the pretest P and N2 scores of the two undergraduate business and society classes established that there were no differences in the mean pretest scores, and since both classes were taught in exactly the same way, the two samples were combined and treated as a single sample (n = 39). As shown in Table 3, paired samples t-test results and effect size calculations showed a statistically significant increase of medium effect size in the P scores (pretest = 30.8718, posttest = 36.0073), t(38) = -2.277, ? < .05, two-tailed, r = 0.346496. Additionally, paired samples t-test results and effect size calculations showed a statistically significant increase of medium effect size in N2 scores (pretest = 31.5914, posttest = 37.7517), t(38) = -2.710, ? < .05, twotailed, r = 0.402447.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Utilization of the instructional practices and materials developed throughout this research effort can produce statistically significant increases in moral reasoning of undergraduate students enrolled in basic core business courses taught by instructors not formally trained in ethical theory. While instructors can integrate ethical decision-making instruction fairly simply into their business courses, significant time and effort on the part of both the instructor and the students is needed to analyze several discipline related cases containing ethical dilemmas in order to generate improvements in student moral reasoning. Individually written case analyses are more beneficial for increasing student moral reasoning than limiting student reflection to group analysis. Additionally, while instructors not formally trained in ethical theory can generate these positive results in their nonethics business courses, significant grade incentives are needed for motivating students to engage the use of the ethical decision-making content.

The procedures enumerated in this research allow for substantial flexibility in instructional methodology, but do require a close adherence to some tenets. First, students need to be introduced to the basics of Western ethical theory including deontology, teleology, virtue theory and cultural conventions and mores. Second, students need to study and apply to more than one ethical case dilemma (preferably three or four) an ethical decision-making framework. Third, students need to write their reflections and analysis of how they applied the ethical decision-making framework to each case study. Fourth, students need to know that the ethical component in the non-ethics course is of sufficient grade weight that it must be engaged with effort and commitment.

While there are many and varied approaches to teaching ethical reasoning to undergraduate business students, this research has identified a combination of practices and instructional materials that worked to increase levels undergraduate business student moral reasoning at one particular institution. It stands to reason that these practices and instructional materials would also accomplish similar results if utilized as recommended at another institution.

Since the conundrum of how, when, and at which grade level business ethics should be taught to undergraduate business students is a constant challenge to business faculty, an approach which affords interested faculty members a means of integrating instruction in ethical decision making into their own content courses with relative ease and minimal special training, is of value to all business programs that do not (or cannot) currently offer specialized business ethics courses. Employment of this integrative approach across the business curriculum also meets the AACSB caveat that ethics instruction should be taught by business faculty members and not be relegated "to a small fraction of the faculty or to those perceived as having low status" (AACSB International, 2004, p. 19).

The limitation of using this type of integrative approach to teaching ethics in non-ethics business courses lies in the fact that students need to be at a point in their study of business that they have developed a foundation of business acumen that facilitates effective business analysis - both economic and ethical. In essence, utilizing ethical case analysis at the earliest level of a post-secondary business program of study would not likely be as effective as perhaps at the sophomore or junior level and beyond. This limitation does point to a possible area for further research, i.e., modification of the intervention protocol so that it could be used without business case studies. Ethical decision making permeates all aspects of society, not just business. There is the potential for ethics education to be integrated into other types of courses - both at the post-secondary and at the secondary levels - that may affect positive outcomes in student moral reasoning.


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Author affiliation:

Dr. William J. Wilhelm is an Associate Professor in the Donald W. Scott College of Business at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN.

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