, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 391-404

Making a Difference with a Discrete Course on Accounting Ethics

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Abstract

Calls for the expansion of ethics education in the business and accounting curricula have resulted in a variety of interventions including additional material on ethical cases, the code of conduct, and the development of new courses devoted to ethical development [Lampe, J.: 1996]. The issue of whether ethics should be taught has been addressed by many authors [see for example: Hanson, K. O.: 1987; Huss, H. F. and D. M. Patterson: 1993; Jones, T. M.: 1988–1989; Kerr, D. S. and L. M. Smith: 1995; Loeb, S. E.: 1988; McDonald, G. M. and G. D. Donleavy: 1995]. The question addressed in this paper is not whether ethics should be taught but whether accounting students can reason more ethically after an intervention based on a discrete and dedicated course on accounting ethics. The findings in this paper indicate that a discrete intervention emphasising dilemma discussion has a positive and significant effect on students’ moral reasoning and development. The data collected from interviews suggest that the salient influences on moral judgement development include: learning theories of ethics particularly Kohlberg’s theory of cognitive moral reasoning and development; peer learning; and moral discourse. The implications from the findings in this study suggest that moral reasoning is responsive to particular types of ethics intervention and educators should carefully plan their attempts to foster moral judgement development.