Features, Guest Author

Vol. 25, Issue 02, 16 September 2022

During the last academic year, I had (again) a course, which was based on the themes of sustainability, responsibility, and integrity. Students represented DIB- people, and they had different cultural backgrounds. To develop courses, the feedback for the teacher is of utmost importance. Surely, we at XAMK have a detailed quality checking process for all courses, but it is important to deepen instructors’ knowledge with some other ways as well. Therefore, I made a decision to use Credos to get more information about students’ attitudes and opinions on responsibility. The objective of my preliminary study was to analyze the personal development, attitudes, and opinions of an individual student, as a member in learning community, in their learning process considering the themes of ethics, integrity,  responsibility and sustainability. In addition, I tried to find out how well the revealed students’ perceptions correspond with the theoretical observations in the sphere of ethics.

The Credos are actually ethical statements the students wrote individually and anonymously as the last part of their learning process. In addition to the statements, all the other material that the students prepared during the courses – such as online discussions with peers via Learn, written reports, and assignments – provided supportive material for the study.

I have a feeling that through self-reflection on their own moral principles, students described quite frankly the different sides of their personal ethics as they were encouraged to uncover openly their opinions and attitudes. I said to my students that try to be frankly in writing your essay, and do not use any empty words, which is – unfortunately – so typical in modern business rhetoric.

Based on the analysis it seems to be that the moral beliefs and judgments among students are most likely created during their lifespan beginning in the childhood. Students applied various expressions in their statements by explaining the significance of their background such as family, friendships, relatives, and parents. Therefore, it appears that there cannot be any radical change in students’ own thinking during some academic courses. A single course, however, can be a trigger for some change particularly if participatory methods – such as peer-learning – are applied throughout, both in the classroom and in online learning sessions. Sharing opinions and knowledge in cross-functional teams may gradually increase environmental-related consciousness among students. Open communication, preferably face-to-face, and continuous online interaction allow students to achieve the educational goals related to responsibility, both in terms of knowledge, personal affections and emotions. In assessing their own moral awareness, emotions can be obstacles, but they can also facilitate positive actions.

Explicitly, the students’ expressed certain values, virtues, and beliefs, which subsequently provide a basis for their own ethics. They seemed to be interested in sharing these principles and values with their peers which they regarded as universal. In their written statements students described their own ethical core values by using concepts such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, sense of justice, fairness, equality, trustworthiness, tolerance, truthfulness, respect, righteousness, accountability, compassion, and responsibility. Some of these terms can be associated directly with transcendentals and principles of the global ethics.

As we all know, there is also the ‘dark side’ of the Moon. Indeed, quite many students were either critical, or at least skeptical, when they assessed whether the firms are truly engaged in responsibility- related policies and are they willing to include social and environmental concerns to their strategies. Firms tend to talk much but do less.

The results of my preliminary study suggest that the issues of global ethics can be applied more often in curricula design to provide additional perspectives for depicting various sides of reality. It is important that there is a supplementary approach to discuss the common standards of ethical behavior to address rather the similarities between human beings, instead of applying disjunctive classification methods with cultural differences and confrontations primarily in focus.

Dr Markku Nikkanen,
Principal Lecturer, Xamk