Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 124, Issue 1, pp 67–80 | Cite as

The Influence of Business Ethics Education on Moral Efficacy, Moral Meaningfulness, and Moral Courage: A Quasi-experimental Study

  • Douglas R. May
  • Matthew T. Luth
  • Catherine E. Schwoerer


The research described here contributes to the extant empirical research on business ethics education by examining outcomes drawn from the literature on positive organizational scholarship (POS). The general research question explored is whether a course on ethical decision-making in business could positively influence students’ confidence in their abilities to handle ethical problems at work (i.e., moral efficacy), boost the relative importance of ethics in their work lives (i.e., moral meaningfulness), and encourage them to be more courageous in raising ethical problems at work even if it is unpopular (i.e., moral courage). Specifically, the study used a rigorous quasi-experimental pretest–posttest research design with a treatment (N = 30) and control group (N = 30) to investigate whether a graduate-level course in business ethics could influence students’ levels of moral efficacy, meaningfulness, and courage. Findings revealed that participants in the business ethics treatment course experienced significant positive increases in each of the three outcome variables as compared to the control group. The largest increase was in moral efficacy, followed by moral courage, and finally, moral meaningfulness. These findings are discussed in the context of the current research on business ethics education and POS. Implications for future research are discussed.


Business ethics education Positive organizational scholarship Moral efficacy Moral meaningfulness Moral courage 



The authors wish to thank the individuals who participated in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas R. May
    • 1
  • Matthew T. Luth
    • 2
  • Catherine E. Schwoerer
    • 3
  1. 1.International Center for Ethics in BusinessThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.School of BusinessPacific Lutheran UniversityTacomaUSA
  3. 3.School of BusinessThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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