Saturday, 23 March 2013

Task 5c - Part 1

I have found the Reader on Professional Ethics really interesting, and it has led me to several discussions with professional associates about the nature of ethics, ethics within the dance school, and the wider social and more intimate personal guidelines.

It has been clear from the start that debate over the rights and wrongs of some topics will almost certainly rage on for eternity. I immediately think of gay marriage, abortion, fox-hunting, the Gaza strip, the IRA/ Northern Ireland...the list is seemingly endless. Whenever two opposing points of view meet there is always going to be conflict - from wars of words to violence against one another.

Moving from the social to the organisational and professional aspects of ethics (p.4) I have realised that although there are guidelines, rules and regulations provided for dance teachers (see my blog about Task 5b) these are still open to interpretation by the individual depending on two main things,
  1. the personal moral stand-point (a combined result of the individuals cultural, social, religious background and life experiences)
  2. the understanding of the individual guidelines and whether the individual subscribes to one (or more) ethical concepts - the end justifies the means, for the greater good, for the good of all, there is only one right, it's god's will, etc.
In an ideal world the ethics all correspond to the preceding level and there is relative harmony and balance, however it is very unlikely that this will always be the case and it is the individual's judgement that also gets brought into the situation, albeit judgement that is tempered by the knowledge of codes of conduct, laws, and morals.

In Ethical issues in professional practice by Ingrid Lunt (2008), she says the following:
"Very few ethical codes prescribe and provide guidance on the do's and don'ts of ethical behaviour. In this way they are very different from a code such as the Highway Code which provides clear and prescriptive guidance as to how to drive a vehicle and behave on the public highway." (p.80)
Hannah Stewart wrote about the social, organisational, professional and personal in her Task 5c document. Showing how, at each of these levels, there are important ethical considerations to be taken. She suggests how one situation can be looked at very differently from the point of view of each context and how they can affect one another and even produce disharmony and ethical dilemmas.

In approaching my professional inquiry some of the aspects of ethics should be fairly straightforward, as long as I pay attention as to how I go about it:
  • be open and upfront about the why's, how's and what for's of my inquiry
  • respect the rights and dignity of those who are participating (Denscombe (1998), p.141
  • gain informed consent from participants
  • ensure data is collected and stored safely and confidentially (Data Protection Act, 1998)
  • maintain the anonymity of participants
However, other aspects of the inquiry could be open to debate depending on the participants/ readers point of view:
  • the benefits to participants, and others, of my inquiry topic. For example, I might think my area of research is beneficial but others might see it as a waste of time or not helping them in any way.
  • the relevance and use of any findings. For example, does what I have researched have wider applications or only localised to my practice?
  • the accuracy of data and of any conclusions drawn. For example, if I rely on self-report and personal accounts can these be accepted by others as true and factual? Do my conclusions include any personal bias as researcher-practitioner?

The Reader moves from the contexts of ethics to theoretical approaches - consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics (p.8). Rather than talk about them here, I'm going to refer to a great blog piece, written by Clare Orlandi, about how these theories could be applied in the context of a teaching scenario (First Installment of Ethics in a Professional Context.., para.4). I found myself thinking about how different the outcomes could be for a student depending on where the teacher stood on these theories...

Comparative ethics (Reader, p.10) was something I felt I already had an awareness of, for example - the role of women in society throughout the ages, from one culture to another, and through the eyes of religion.
Thinking about it in terms of my professional inquiry, I can see that it is important that:
  • I am up-to-date with my knowledge of standards and practices in research by reading the latest information. I also need to ensure that I operate within the current laws of the United Kingdom.
  • Keep in mind the sensitivity of any questions asked, relative to the participants in the study. For example, being aware of how a question I ask might lead to discomfort or offence depending on the religious/ familial background of the study group.
  • Knowing what is currently 'out there' in relation to my topic area - to ensure accuracy and relevance in my research - and ensure that any articles I read, and perhaps draw evidence from, are reliable and fair. For example, checking that any organisation that might be paying for the research have not influenced or adjusted the findings of the inquiry to suit their own ends.

Wow! That seems like a really long post already and I don't feel I've even scratched the surface of ethics in a professional context (Handbook WBS3630, Summary of tasks, p.16) so I'll stop at this point, go back to my title, add "Part 1", and carry on with the second part of the Reader in another post!


BAPP (Arts) Reader 5 Professional Ethics (2012-13). School of Media and Performing Arts Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University.

BAHonours Professional Practice (Arts) WBS 3630 (2012-13). School of Media and Performing Arts Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University.

Denscombe, M. (1998). The Good Research Guide: for small-scale social research projects. 3rd edition. Open University Press.

Lunt, I. (2008). Ethical issues in professional life, p.73-98. Exploring Professionalism (Ed.) Cunningham, B. Bedford Way Papers, IOE, University of London.

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